VIRGINIA

Typhoon Haiyan: Locals rush to help victims

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FALLS CHURCH, Va. (WJLA) - The images and information coming out of the Southern region of the Philippines is difficult to accept for local residents like Eve Gerrnale. She's from the city of Tacloban, which is directly in the path of the Typhoon Haiyan.

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"I communicated through Facebook," said Gerrnale. "We will worry about the property later. It's the lives. I just hope everyone is OK."

Local Filipino-Americans are already in disaster relief mode, just weeks after a devastating 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck that nation, leaving more than 350,000 people homeless.

“It's devastating... my countrymen are being devastated by the typhoon,” says Marissa Alisuag, a Filipino American. “They're actually sending money to the Philippines.” 

The nation gets about 20 typhoons a year, but Typhoon Haiyan is the strongest to come through in decades. 

Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr., learned Friday that the unofficial death count had risen from 33 to 50, but he added that number is actually a good sign that efforts to protect citizens are working.

“The preparations, I think, have paid off, ” he says. “Because there could have been more deaths. In the last typhoon that occurred last year in 2012, in December 2012, over one thousand people perished.” 

Allen Chan, who was born in the Philippines and grew up in Northern Virginia, has watched the terrible images of the storm on the news. His father's hometown, where he still has relatives, is one of the areas hardest hit.

"Literally homes that they've built by hand from scraps that they found on the street,” Chan says.

The reports he's heard indicate the town is destroyed.

"From what I do know it probably doesn't look good." 

The Asia-American Initiative has been directly working with the Red Cross. Seven tons of medicine and medical supplies have already been flown over. Four rescue boats in Virginia Beach are also being shipped.

Albert Santoli had collected several tons of medicine to help victims of the earthquake, but now those supplies will also help storm victims. 

“It would take care of about 30,000 people for God willing a month,” Santoli says. “And if you’re talking about two or three million, it's a drop in the bucket. A lot more is needed.” 

“I’m sad because no one should suffer from calamities like typhoon,” Alisaug says. 

Locals rush to help typhoon victims

A benefit concert will be held at 8 p.m. Friday night at Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill in Alexandria. It will be hosted by local Philippine nurses. Originally organized to help earthquake stricken families, now the urgency is focused on the latest victim's of this most recent disaster. Proceeds will go to the Red Cross.

Besides the concert, many others in the D.C. area are helping or getting ready to.

"Right now we're in the midst of assembling a team,” says Iraq war veteran Matt Pelak.

Pelak is with the non-profit Team Rubicon. It uses the skills veterans learned in the military to help when disasters hit.

"A lot of grunt work that folks in the military are sort of good at, getting these things done, solving problems,” he says.

The D.C. area has a large Filipino-American population, and Allen says the storm is devastating for many.

"It's home, so there's always that connection,” he says.

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