Local families text, await word from loved ones in Philippines

Residents carry their belongings Tuesday from Tacloban, Philippines. Officials were on the defensive Tuesday over the pace of storm-relief efforts as Manila struggled to get supplies to the airport in Tacloban, where 10,000 people were feared dead.

Typhoon Haiyan crushed a Hamden woman's family compound in Tacloban, Philippines, and the woman still can't reach any of the 20 members of her immediate and extended family.

"I haven't really heard their voices," Melanie Anover Voingo of Hamden said.

The over-140 mph winds struck Friday and killed at least 1,744 people, according to news reports. Aid is arriving slowly to a city that had about 220,000 residents.

Voingo moved to the United States 13 years ago, and her father happened to be visiting her in Connecticut when the typhoon hit, she said. Some members of her family had moved north to Manila, including one of her younger brothers, but as many as 20 other family members were in Tacloban when the storm struck, she said.

"My uncle and his family and grandchildren have no car, no resources, no way of getting out, so they decided they had nowhere to go but stay," Voingo said.

She said she has been able to communicate with her brother in Manila through Facebook and Viber, a smartphone app, but that even he can't reach their family in Tacloban. Her older brother, his wife and their daughter were able to catch a ride in a van with his in-laws out of Tacloban to Manila, she said.

He only turns his cellphone on every two hours, and Voingo said she only sends him text messages. He doesn't text back in an effort to preserve battery power, she said.

She learned Tuesday night that two of the three homes in the compound were damaged but with enough of a foundation left to rebuild them. She has no information yet about the third home.

She said she has heard that her family members are alive. But that's little comfort to her.

"Disease could spread because of the dead bodies and lack of medicine," Voingo said. "We are talking about my uncle who is well into his 70s, maybe nearing 80s, and his wife, as well as the youngest of the family. I would say about 2 years old."

Her younger brother is a doctor, she said, and though he wants to go to Tacloban to help, that part of the country is so unstable right now he has been advised not to go.

"Medical supplies in the area have already depleted," she said. "The whole situation is just overwhelming."

Voingo said she is participating in the Philippine-American Association of Connecticut's disaster relief event Saturday at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Hamden.

She said the group will be accepting donations of cash and goods as well as nonperishable food items, which will be sent to an organization in the Philippines.

"Even though people have money to purchase commodities (in Tacloban), there are no commodities to buy, so any aid helps," she said.

Nity Oris of Gales Ferry said her family lives in Negros Occidental, west of Tacloban, which also was affected by the typhoon but not as severely. They received mostly heavy rain and strong winds, she said.

"My brothers and sisters, they are all OK," Oris said. "So they are good and the home is OK."

As a former president of New England Filipino-American Inc., Oris said she is helping to coordinate an aid drive. There are bins at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Gales Ferry for donations of clothing, blankets, towels, nonperishable food items and more, she said.

The organization will send the donations to groups such as Operation Blessing Foundation Philippines, she said.

Anh Duong of East Lyme said her family lives in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. That city saw power outages, heavy rains and flooding, she said.

Northern Vietnam was more heavily hit, and homes were crushed, she said. According to news reports, six people died in Vietnam as a result of the typhoon.

j.somers@theday.com

Typhoon survivors jostle Tuesday for a chance to board a C-130 military transport plane in Tacloban, central Philippines. Thousands of typhoon survivors swarmed the airport seeking a flight out, but only a few hundred made it, leaving behind a shattered, rain-lashed city short of food and water and littered with bodies.
Typhoon survivors jostle Tuesday for a chance to board a C-130 military transport plane in Tacloban, central Philippines. Thousands of typhoon survivors swarmed the airport seeking a flight out, but only a few hundred made it, leaving behind a shattered, rain-lashed city short of food and water and littered with bodies.

If you want to help

• The Philippine-American Association of Connecticut will hold a disaster relief event from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, 2819 Whitney Ave., Hamden.

• There are collection bins for donations of clothing, blankets, towels and nonperishable food items at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, 1650 Route 12, Gales Ferry.

• The Diocese of Norwich is working through Catholic Relief Services, an aid agency that has worked in the Philippines since 1945, to provide emergency and longterm development aid. Donations to the organization will be put to "immediate good use," for shelter tarps, water and hygiene supplies, and for help with cleanup and debris removal, the diocese said. To donate, visit www.crs.org.

• Philippine Red Cross: www.redcross.org.ph

• American Red Cross: www.redcross.org

• Unicef: www.unicefusa.org

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