Typhoons aren’t rare in the Philippines, local Filipinos say, but the storm that struck Friday was uncommonly powerful.
Filipinos in the Omaha metro area couldn’t be certain how their relatives fared in the colossal typhoon because power outages made communication spotty.
“So we don’t know,” said Dolly Lauridsen, a Filipino who came to the United States in 1977. The Philippine Red Cross’ early estimate is that at least 1,000 people had been killed.
The Filipino-American Organization of Metropolitan Omaha happened to hold its monthly meeting Saturday, at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Daryl Rose, president of the organization, said 3,000 to 5,000 Filipinos live in the metro area.
Uncertainty about relatives pervaded the meeting, but none of the 10 members at the gathering had relatives in the hardest-hit city of Tacloban, on Leyte Island.
Delsa Hansen’s mother lives on the island of Cebu, near Leyte. “I haven’t talked to my mom yet,” said Hansen, who has been in the United States for 27 years.
Nevertheless, she said, a cousin had been able to communicate with their relatives in the Philippines and had given Hansen assurances that her mother was OK.
Lauridsen said she has relatives on Leyte, an island on which American and Japanese soldiers clashed in 1944. She has had no communication with them, she said.
“Everything is just down,” she said, referring to electrical power there.
Typhoons in the Philippines are “pretty common,” Lauridsen said, “but this one is one of a kind.”
The Philippines is an independent nation, made up of a string of thousands of islands, in southeast Asia. Its population is close to 100 million.
Authorities have said Typhoon Haiyan carried winds of close to 150 miles per hour and gusts up to 170 mph.
Rose’s wife, Lileth, said she has many brothers and sisters on Leyte Island. She had tried unsuccessfully to reach them by email and text, but she had a relative who had made contact with some of her family there.
She said her family members evidently are all right, but their houses are damaged. Lileth Rose, who came to the United States in 1987, became emotional in a telephone interview.
She remained worried about her siblings, she said. Further, she said, it was terribly sad that her homeland had been hit so brutally and damaged so severely.