UAE Filipinos tell of their fears for friends at home in the wake of Super Typhoon Haiyan
ABU DHABI // Expatriates have spoken of their fears for friends and family after one of the strongest typhoons on record battered the Philippines, killing more than 1,200 people.
Relief efforts were already under way in the UAE to help victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the island nation yesterday.
Gusts of up to 315kph swept across the country, with the storm slamming into the southern tip of Samar Island before raging on to Leyte Island.
Alan Bacason, 49, a Filipino expatriate in Dubai, kept a 24-hour vigil beside his television, watching for news updates about the storm, known in the Philippines as Typhoon Yolanda.
He had been unable to contact his mother, daughter Marielle, 24, former wife or mother-in-law, who were in a hotel in Tacloban city on Leyte island when the storm struck.
“I do not know if the hotel has been affected by the typhoon,” said Mr Bacason, a father of three who works for Dubai Maritime City Authority. “I am very, very worried. I just want to speak to them but I can’t. I do not know if anything has happened to them.
“We are monitoring every news channel watching for any update. We cannot sleep. All we can do is wait and hope.”
The typhoon has affected more than four million people in 36 provinces, the Philippines government said.
It knocked out power and communications across a number of islands, flattened houses and triggered landslides and floods.
Mr Bacason said the typhoon was the worst in living memory.
“Everybody knows this is the worst that has hit our country as far as I can remember,” he said. “I don’t think anyone expected it to be as bad as this.”
Eva Dicenpe, 50, a driving instructor in Abu Dhabi, has been unable to contact her mother and sister.
“I am very, very worried,” she said. “There are so many calamities in my home county – earthquakes, storms and now this.
“My family are there and I do not know what has happened to them or if they have been affected in any way. I just don’t know what to do.”
Frank Cimafranca, the Philippine consul general in Dubai, said fundraising efforts were under way.
“Many of the Filipino community here, they are thinking of ways to help,” he said. “We will be supporting them in any way we can.
Last month, a charity dinner was held in Dubai to raise money for the victims of a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck the Philippines on October 15, leaving 213 people dead and more than 700 injured.
“Unfortunately, here we are again,” Mr Cimafranca said. “Hopefully we will be able to get support not only from Filipinos here but also other people here, and the rest of the world to help those affected by a storm of such strength.”
He, too, could not recall as strong a storm hitting the Philippines.
He urged his compatriots to stay strong in the absence of any news from family and friends.
“There is a large Filipino community here and I am sure many of them will be directly affected by this storm,” he said. “I just hope and pray that they do not sustain loss of loved ones.”
Televised images yesterday showed overturned lorries, uprooted trees, submerged houses, and the dramatic rescue of 15 crew members from a barge docked on the island of Bohol. They were helped ashore as waves crashed down around them.
Matilyn Bagunu, the president of Filcom, which represents Filipino community groups in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, said a fundraising brunch would be held on Friday. About 300 people were expected to attend the event, she said, which will be held at two locations: the consul general office in Dubai and the Philippine Oversees Labour Office.
“We want to raise as much relief money for Yolanda victims as possible,” said Ms Bagunu.
“All I could do was cry. So many friends’ families have been affected – they have been wiped out.
“Many have not been able to get in contact with their family and are relying on the news. It has not just affected one province but all of the Philippines.
“All we can do now is raise money to help those affected.”
The typhoon is the 25th serious storm to hit the Philippines this year.
Updated: November 9, 2013 04:00 AM