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Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines

A large typhoon struck the Philippines on Oct. 8, killing thousands and devastating the country’s infrastructure.

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SEATTLE-TACOMA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT — It was an emotional homecoming for a Kirkland man who survived the typhoon in the Philippines.

Gregg Anderson was vacationing with a friend in Guiuan, the community hit first by the typhoon. Anderson’s story of survival is unbelievable.

kirkland1For his family members at Sea-Tac International Airport on Wednesday, first it was the jitters, then anticipation, and, finally, excitement as they saw the first glimpse of Anderson coming up the escalator.

Anderson and his friend Chad Reel, an Alaska native, arrived at Sea-Tac to a big crowd of family, friends and co-workers.

Gregg’s first impression of Guiuan was luxurious and peaceful. He said his view of the Pacific Ocean was from a beautiful villa nestled on white-sand beaches but as soon as he could take in the view, the typhoon roared in.

“This thumping sound, the deep thumping sound, went on for four hours,” Anderson said.

Anderson and Reel took cover under a concrete stairwell inside their vacation villa; the terrifying typhoon took everything.

“It was an absolute beast this thing, had a thumping sound it was like a washing machine, and it would just whap, whap and it would just flatten everything. We were in the hole as we called it, we opened up the door and we saw everything flying,” Anderson said.

In no time their shelter was gone, but they were alive and for the next five days Anderson captured home video of the devastation. They had enough food to get them through, but others were killing each other to survive.

“Three people were killed, shot fighting over food when I was there. I witnessed looting; it was crazy,” Reel said.

“It was day to day, it was traumatic; had to make the best decision you couldn’t panic because you’d get yourself in trouble,” said Anderson.

Guiuan, a community of about 47,000 people, has been almost wiped off the map.

“Utterly destroyed, everything gone, just gone. It’s like you know you took a vacuum cleaner and cleaned the entire landscape,” Anderson said.

Now he is back home with a story of a lifetime.

The homecoming was even more special because Wednesday was Anderson’s 50th birthday.

Typhoon

Courtesy Worldgeographic.com

SEATTLE — Email scams that solicit the wiring of money to victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines are surfacing and donors should give cautiously over the next few weeks, authorities warned Wednesday.

“Unfortunately scammers look to exploit our compassion for helping others during disasters,” state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said. “Take time to research the charity you’d like to donate to so your hard-earned money reaches those in need, not a scammer’s wallet.”

“It’s heartwarming that many people in our state want to donate money to help with disaster relief in the Philippines,” Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman said. “We strongly suggest that people be careful when donating so their money actually goes where it’s needed instead of into the hands of scammers.”

The U.S. Justice Department, the FBI, and the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) said suspected fraudulent activity pertaining to relief efforts associated with Typhoon Haiyan should be reported to the toll-free NCDF hotline at 866-720-5721.  The hotline is staffed by a live operator 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for the purpose of reporting suspected scams being perpetrated by criminals in the aftermath of disasters.

The Justice Department noted in a news release that in the wake of natural disasters, many individuals feel moved to contribute to victim assistance programs and organizations across the country.  The Department of Justice and the FBI remind the public to apply a critical eye and conduct due diligence before giving to anyone soliciting donations on behalf of hurricane victims.  Solicitations can originate as emails, websites, door-to-door collections, mailings, telephone calls and similar methods.

Before making a donation of any kind, consumers should adhere to certain guidelines, including the following:

Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming emails, including by clicking links contained within those messages, because they may contain computer viruses.

  • Be cautious of individuals representing themselves as victims or officials asking for donations via email or social networking sites.
  • Beware of organizations with copycat names similar to but not exactly the same as those of reputable charities.
  • Rather than following a purported link to a website, verify the existence and legitimacy of non-profit organizations by using Internet-based resources.
  • Be cautious of emails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files, because those files may contain viruses.  Only open attachments from known senders.
  • To ensure that contributions are received and used for intended purposes, make donations directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf.
  • Do not be pressured into making contributions; reputable charities do not use coercive tactics.
  • Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions.  Providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.
  • Avoid cash donations if possible.  Pay by debit or credit card, or write a check directly to the charity. Do not make checks payable to individuals.
  • Legitimate charities do not normally solicit donations via money transfer services.
  • Most legitimate charities maintain websites ending in .org rather than .com.

If you believe that you have been a victim of fraud by a person or organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of disaster victims, contact the NCDF by phone at (866) 720-5721, fax at (225) 334-4707 or email at disaster@leo.gov.

You can also report suspicious e-mail solicitations or fraudulent websites to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

National & World News
11/13/13

VIDEO: Typhoon Haiyan aftermath

MANILA — Four days after Typhoon Haiyan blew away their homes and livelihoods, most Philippine victims remain in far-flung flooded coastal communities where they so far have been unable to obtain assistance, aid workers say.

The United Nations on Tuesday launched an appeal for $301 million to help victims, while U.S. and British warships headed toward the region.

In its appeal for funds, the U.N. estimated that more than 11 million people have been affected by the typhoon, one of the strongest storms ever to hit land, with 660,000 left homeless. The official death toll passed 1,700 on Tuesday and is expected to rise substantially.

Typhoon

From wikimedia

However, Philippine President Benigno Aquino IIIdownplayed estimates that 10,000 or more people may have died, telling CNN that the death toll would more likely be about 2,000 to 2,500 people.

Arriving Tuesday in Manila to coordinate the efforts, U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said that money was needed for “food, health, sanitation, shelter, debris removal and also protection of the most vulnerable.’’

Before her arrival, the U.N. released $25 million in emergency funds. Other governments have pledged more than $35 million.

On the hard-hit island of Leyte, there is only one major airport; it’s in the devastated city of Tacloban. Aid workers say that the road from the airport into the city is so clogged with debris, interspersed with the now-putrefying remains of the dead, that it takes three hours to get from the airport into the city center. Roads leading inland are entirely impassable.

“We have not been able to get into the remote communities,” Amos told reporters. “Even in Tacloban, because of the debris and the difficulties with logistics and so on, we have not been able to get in the level of supply that we would want to. We are going to do as much as we can to bring in more.”

For more on this LA Times story, click here.

ROCHESTER — The sister of a missing Kirkland man who went to the Philippines for his 50th birthday before Friday’s devastating typhoon is alive and well, his family said.

Gregg Anderson called his sister Dianna Schneider late Monday to tell her he survived the typhoon that is estimated to have killed about 10,000 people.

Anderson, who was spending his 50th birthday on the coast with a friend, was air-lifted by the Filipino Air Force from the town of Samar and taken to Cebu. From there, he is waiting to get a flight to Manila before he heads home.  Anderson said his friend and his friend’s girlfriend are also OK.

Anderson

David Anderson

“He is the happiest person in the world right now,” Schneider told Q13 FOX News Monday.

Other members of the Filipino community in the Pacific Northwest are waiting to hear whether their relatives are OK. The Filipino Community Center is working with officials overseas to gather a list of survivors and plans to post it to its website, which you can find here.

Comcast is now making the Filipino Channel available free to customers in Washington state through next Monday, Nov. 18. The channel is available on Xfinity TV channel 241. A list of recorded survivors is available on the channel.

By Sunshine de Leon and Alexandra Zavis

Los Angeles Times

MANILA — The scale of the devastation beginning to unfold in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan has stunned relief workers, who estimate that as many as 10 million people were affected by the storm that swept through the central Philippines late last week.

philWith many coastal areas still cut off from transportation and communications, government officials and relief workers were left guessing Monday as to the full impact of the storm, known as Yolanda by Filipinos.

“Right now we’re operating in a relative black hole of information,” Dr. Natasha Reyes, emergency coordinator in the Philippines for the international medical group Doctors Without Borders, said in a statement Monday. “We know from the very little we can see that the situation is terrible. But it’s what we don’t see that’s the most worrying.”

The official death toll, which stood at 1,774 Monday night, was expected to rise to 10,000 or more, according to officials and relief workers who surveyed the damage from the air.

Between 2 million and 3 million people were believed to have lost their homes, Joe Curry, Philippines representative for Catholic Relief Services, said in an interview. Millions more were left without access to adequate food, clean water or shelter.

“The numbers are just hard to comprehend,” he said.

“It’s turned a lush, tropical island into a wasteland,” Curry said of the island of Leyte, which was among the worst hit. “We’ve had so many typhoons before, but nothing compared to how intense and devastating this was.”

[CNN reported:  Aid pledges began to pour in on Monday -- $25 million from the United Nations, 3 million euros ($4 million) from the European Union, 10 million pounds ($16 million) from Britain and $10 million from the United Arab Emirates, home to a large population of expatriate Filipino workers. U.N. and U.S. civilian disaster assessment teams were on the scene.

U.S. Marines based in Japan worked to outfit Tacloban's shattered airport with lights, radar and other gear to allow it to operate 24 hours a day.

The United States also announced that the aircraft carrier USS George Washington and three escort ships have been dispatched to the Philippines to assist in recovery efforts. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered the carrier to head for the islands at "best speed" from Hong Kong, where it was on a port visit, the Pentagon said. Two other American vessels, including a supply ship, are already headed for the Philippines, the Pentagon said.

The U.S. Agency for International Development is sending emergency shelter materials and basic hygiene supplies to aid 10,000 families as well as 55 metric tons of emergency rations sufficient to feed 20,000 children and 15,000 adults for up to five days. Both shipments were expected to arrive this week, the agency said.

And British Prime Minister David Cameron announced Monday night that his government was also sending a cargo plane and the destroyer HMS Daring to assist, he said.]

The most urgent needs include not just food and water, but tents and plastic sheeting, aid workers said.

“Imagine rural areas where people live in small villages, where everything is flattened, and there is debris everywhere,” Curry said. “They just need something over their heads to give them shade and give them a place to sleep at night, and right now they probably don’t have that.”

In a country with a long history of natural disasters, Haiyan could rank as the worst ever. President Benigno Aquino III has declared a “state of national calamity.” Relief trucks have been mobbed. Looting and jail breaks have also been reported in some areas.

International aid agencies said they were rushing supplies and personnel to the region. Illustrating the extent of the need, the United Nations refugee agency, which usually focuses on conflict zones, said it was organizing an emergency airlift to the Philippines, sending basic items such as tents, plastic sheeting, blankets, mosquito nets, soap and underwear.

“The level of destruction we’re seeing reported is absolutely staggering,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said in a statement.

Relief efforts so far are concentrated in Leyte’s devastated provincial capital, Tacloban, which has the largest airport in the region. Curry said it would take days to reach people in more far-flung areas.

“You need trucks. You have to distribute items, you have to do it in an orderly manner, and there’s concern that there’s not even functioning government right now,” he said.

Many medical facilities were damaged or destroyed, with much of their equipment washed away and health staff unaccounted for, said Reyes, of Doctors Without Borders.

The Philippines military is providing medical care from the Tacloban airport.

“People are bringing the injured to the airport from the town by motorbike or on foot; it’s a six-hour walk,” Reyes said. “Usually in these types of disasters, the main needs are related to people being displaced from their homes, and the injuries are relatively minor – cuts, broken bones, head wounds. But with so many houses and buildings having collapsed because of the strong winds, we’re expecting to see some significant injuries.”

Mental health needs are also expected to be significant.

“We’ve heard reports that people are walking around aimlessly, completely desperate,” Reyes said. “As a Filipino, I know that we’re a resilient people. We’ve been battered over and over again by natural disasters. So when I hear about people being so desperate, so stunned, so hopeless, it really tells me just how bad this is.”

If you wish to donate, there are some links to the American Red Cross and World Vision. Also, some other methods below, as compiled by The New York Times:

Philippine Red Cross

The Philippine Red Cross is accepting donations and coordinating disaster relief on the ground throughout much of the central Philippines. The organization is posting updates on Facebook and Twitter.

World Food Program

The World Food Program, which provides emergency food aid to families and children, is accepting donations online and through PayPal.

Unicef

The Philippine branch of Unicef, the United Nations Children’s Fund, says that children affected by the typhoon need urgent access to drinkable water, medical supplies, food and shelter. It is accepting donations online as part of an emergency typhoon appeal.

Catholic Relief Services

Catholic Relief Services has dispatched a team to the area affected by the storm, but said travel to the most hard-hit cities and towns was “extremely slow” because of damaged infrastructure and debris-clogged roads. It is accepting donations online.

Caritas Manila

The Philippine branch of Caritas, a Catholic charity, is accepting donations online and via wire transfers. It is posting updates on Twitter.

Save the Children

Save the Children is accepting donations online to respond to the needs of children and families. The group said that 10 percent of each donation will be set aside to help prepare for future emergencies.

Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders)

The medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders),explains on its website that it has emergency teams in Cebu (the Philippine city with the nearest fully operational airport to the disaster area) and expects “to have a medical team on the ground tomorrow, Tuesday, in Tacloban, a town devastated when the typhoon first struck the coast.”

Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development

The Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development is seeking volunteers and accepting donations to respond to the typhoon’s destruction. Donations are accepted online. It is also posting updates about relief efforts to Twitter.

Gawad Kalinga

Gawad Kalinga, a Philippine nonprofit dedicated to fighting poverty, is accepting monetary donations as well as nonperishable goods such as children’s vitamins, rice, kitchen utensils and blankets. The group is accepting donations via credit card through its “give now” page. It is also posting updates on Facebook and Twitter.

The mGive Foundation Philippines Typhoon Disaster Relief Fund

The United States State Department announced a partnership on Monday with The mGive Foundation Philippines Typhoon Disaster Relief Fund, organized by the mGive Foundation, an American 501c3 public charity that collects donations for victims of the typhoon via mobile phone. Wireless subscribers can text AID to 80108 to give a $10 donation, which will appear on the donor’s wireless bill or be deducted from their prepaid balance.

Finding a Loved One

If you are looking for information about a specific person in an area affected by the typhoon, Google has set up a person finder page, which can also be accessed by mobile device or text message. If you have information about a specific person affected by the typhoon, you can also use the person finder page to share it.

ROCHESTER, Wash. — For three days, Dianna Schneider has been waiting for word from her brother Gregg Anderson, who flew to the Philippines early last week for a 50th birthday trip.  On Monday, she learned that her brother sent an email to his work Thursday, saying, “I am going to Samar.”

That is good news.  The Samar province is north of the area hardest hit by Typhoon Haiyan, and likely where tourists and residents would have been evacuated.

“My phone is in my hand constantly.  I look to see if I can see his face on the TV.  He is a very strong person and is very fit and I know he is one that would just jump in and help out,” Schneider said.

greggandersonAnderson, a Kirkland mortgage broker, arrived in Tacloban on the evening of Tuesday, Nov. 5.  He was supposed to then drive by car east two hours to Guiuan to a beach villa.

“He was excited to go and stay on the beach and fish with his friend and have a wonderful time,” said Schneider.

Both Tacloban and Guiuan were devastated by the typhoon with 1,200 confirmed dead and estimates as high as 10,000 dead.

“When you don’t know what’s happening out there you feel helpless,” said Sheila Burrus, director of the Filipino Community Center of Seattle.

Members of the Filipino community are also waiting to hear whether their relatives are OK.  Cory Ocana watched news from the Philippines inside the community center and is waiting to hear from her mother, brothers and sisters who still live there.

“All the houses are wiped out.  There is no food, no medications or water.  It’s really difficult and I am not at ease at all,” said Ocana.

Cell phone towers were destroyed in the storm, but service was starting to be restored Monday.  So, for now, Schneider will keep her phone in hand, just waiting for that call.

“He wanted something unbelievable for his birthday.  The best birthday present he could ever get is just to be able to get home,” said Schneider.

The Filipino Community Center is working with officials overseas to gather a list of survivors and plans to post it to its website, which you can find here.

Comcast is now making the Filipino Channel available free to customers in Washington state through next Monday, Nov. 18. The channel is available on Xfinity TV channel 241.

Local News
11/11/13

Kirkland man missing in Philippines

greggandersonROCHESTER- For three days, Dianna Schneider sat with cell phone in hand, glued to the news coverage of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

Her brother, Gregg Anderson of Kirkland, flew there to meet a friend last week for his 50th birthday.  Anderson first flew into Manila, then onto Tacloban City on Tuesday, Nov. 5.  Schneider is hoping by the time he arrived, authorities would not have let him travel on by road to the beach home further east where he was supposed to stay.

Family members worry the mortgage banker could have been caught in the middle of the storm that is estimated to have killed 10,000 people or more. Cell phone towers and internet services are down, so getting in touch with anyone overseas has been extremely difficult.

Hear from Dianna Schneider and another Filipino family who has relatives in the area hit by the storm on Q13 FOX News at 4 and 5 p.m.

National & World News
11/11/13

Marines help with typhoon relief on Veterans Day

TACLOBAN, Philippines — Amid desperation, some hope.

Food, water and medical supplies were in dangerously short supply. But the U.S. Marines arrived in one of the more dramatic signs of progress Monday, three days after Typhoon Haiyan swept through the Philippines.

Here’s a look at some of the scenes CNN reporters have witnessed in the aftermath of the massive storm:

Typhoon

Courtesy Worldgeographic.com

Brigadier Gen. Paul Kennedy arrived at the Tacloban airport at the head of a U.S. Marines relief effort that includes helicopters as well as four huge C-130 aircraft to ferry in relief supplies.

Kennedy received a warm greeting from a Filipino officer and projected confidence in an interview with CNN’s Paula Hancocks.

“There’s a lot we can do,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said his marines will set up floodlights and radar to keep the airport operating after dark.

Not far away from the military operation, passengers lined up in the damaged terminal for commercial flights.

Runways blocked by trees this weekend had been cleared, and passenger jets were on the tarmac. Local airlines were working together on flight plans.

For more on this CNN story, click here.

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