'Bad Dream' for Okanagan Filipinos

Unable to contact their loved ones or verify their safety, thousands of people in the Okanagan are doing the only thing they can at a time like this; scour the news for any more information on the deadly typhoon that decimated parts of the Philippines, and its resulting aftermath that left much of the country in the dark.

According to the Okanagan Filipino Canadians (OFC) society, there are approximately 4,000 living in the Okanagan, and many have reached out to the OFC and its president Victoria Oppertshauser.

“A number of them have family in the affected areas and what’s really bothering them is the lack of communication; everything has broken down so they don’t know how their families are,” explains Oppertshauser, who says she’s been fielding dozens of calls since Typhoon Haiyan hit the eastern seaboard of the archipelago on Friday.

“If they’re safe, if they’re dead, if they have anything to eat, do they have drinking water? All systems are down so our source of information is people in the media.”

Oppertshauser says she was able to speak with her brother Monday evening, who relayed information that emergency response to the typhoon was delayed because many of the first responders found themselves in dire situations and were unable to help others when the storm hit.

She says her brother told her many were trapped in collapsed buildings or pulled out into the ocean by storm surges while attending to the disaster scenes.

Oppertshauser says the images she is seeing are like that of a “bad dream”.

Authorities are said to have evacuated 800,000 people ahead of the storm, but Oppertshauser believes many more stayed behind, as that part of the world routinely experiences these types of intense storms.

“What they didn’t seem to comprehend is that it wasn’t just the wind and the rain, they didn’t expect the ocean to come in and the storm surges, which are said to have been up to 20-feet high.”

So now they wait, hoping to hear from family members and friends as the colossal cleanup effort begins. 

The OFC is collecting donations for the relief, as they expect food, water, medicine and shelter is needed. Cheques can be made out to the Okanagan Filipino Club, with a memo for the “Haiyan Typhoon disaster relief” and sent to 987 Christina place, Kelowna BC, V1V 1J5.

“Whatever funds we collect now will most likely go completely towards infrastructure – the rebuilding of the homes, the rebuilding of the roads. The whole electrical system is down so I don’t know how many years it’s going to take to fix,” she says.

“We will gather all our funds together and then decide where that money can be put to good use and send every cent back home.”

The OFC is also considering a clothing drive, along with material items that could be shipped to the different areas, but that has yet to be finalized.

To donate to national charities click here.


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