Minnesota families await word on typhoon's toll

8:51 PM, Nov 9, 2013   |    comments
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MAPLEWOOD, Minn. - Communications with the Philippines remains spotty, as Minnesota families await word on loved ones following the devastation of Typhoon Hiayan.

The difficult communications are also affecting a Filipino Congressman visiting Minnesota, who had to delay his return home because of the storm.

"It's the strongest that hit land in the Philippines and maybe on Earth," said Congressman Emil Ong.  "Even cars are blown away. I monitored last night, all the houses along the seashore, none existed, all were blown away."

Ong represents Northern Samar, one of the provinces that bore the brunt of the typhoon's terror. Reaching his home country has been nearly impossible in the aftermath of the storm. Ong said most of his communications came from other places, like the capital of Manila, which was largely spared from the storm.

"This one really is the strongest, and the worst typhoon that we experienced.  Nobody expected that it will be that strong," Ong said.

Ong shared some of the few details he has received Saturday with dozens gathered at the Philippine Center of Minnesota in Maplewood.

"We can't sleep. It's like we're left hanging," said Josephine Fernandez, who hasn't been able to contact her family at all.

Instead, she's relied on news reports and social media for any word from home.

"I have been looking through Facebook contacts and YouTube," she said.

Much of her family still lives in one of the regions hardest hit by the storm.

"Is my Mom alive?  Is my sister alive, you know?  Your folks, you don't know where they are. You haven't heard anything from them. Do you still have a house? Do you still have a home to go to?"

The Philippine Center of Minnesota estimates more than 15,000 Filipinos are living in Minnesota.

The Red Cross says any donations for typhoon relief should be specifically marked "Philippines Typhoons and Flooding" in the memo line.

The Fil-Minnesotan Association is also planning to update relief efforts through its website at www.fil-minnesotan.org.

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