DeKALB – Rey Ty is still trying to find out if his family members in the Philippines are alive and well after a typhoon hit the island country Friday and left thousands of people dead and thousands of survivors displaced.
Ty, who works as a training coordinator for Northern Illinois University's International Training office, said he's been contacting relatives outside of Leyte island, which was hit hard by Typhoon Haiyan. He said he's also been scouring Facebook for tips and skimming through the websites from several organizations involved in the disaster relief.
"I'm on my toes every moment trying to find out where my relatives are at," he said.
For now, Ty said it's hard for him to begin to feel anything about a typhoon because he doesn't know what's become of his family in Leyte, an estimated 30 relatives who are from his mother's side. So far he's received an indication his nephew may be all right, but he only knows this based on someone else's account.
Islands such as Samar, Cebu and Leyte have all been affected by the storm, which had winds that were among the strongest ever recorded. The city of Tacloban on Leyte, which has a population of 220,000 people, was devastated. Most of the city is in ruins, with destroyed houses, cars and trees.
Authorities said the official death toll from the disaster rose to 1,774 Tuesday, although they expect that number to rise considerably.
Nations such as the U.S., Japan, Australia and Britain are stepping in to provide aid. The U.S. said it is providing $20 million while others plan to provide tens of millions of dollars in aid. The U.N. said it had released $25 million in emergency funds to pay for shelter materials and household items, and for assistance providing health services, safe water supplies and sanitation facilities.
Lina Ong said her family managed to evade the wrath of the typhoon because they live in Cebu City, which is in the central part of Cebu. Ong, the director of International Training at NIU, said based on the conversations she had with her family, they experienced some strong winds and saw trees falling but nothing compared to the devastation elsewhere.
"We didn't experience the same intensity of the typhoon as [others] did in those places," she said.
The northern part of the island was affected however, she said. Her nephew Hilario Davide III is the governor of Cebu and has been traveling around towns in northern Cebu to deliver food, water, electric generators and other assistance. She said she's not been able to reach him, but she has been reading about him in the news.
Rhodalyne Gallo-Crail, an instructor who teaches language courses in Tagalog at NIU, wrote in an email that her friends and their families were affected by the typhoon. She said as of Tuesday morning the families have not been found. She's been making contributions through the United Methodist Church, and as of Monday the church released $97,000 to help about 1,000 families who were affected, she wrote.
"I pray that the national leadership in the [Philippines] will have the resources to manage all the different aspects of relief distribution, rescue operation and in the long term, rebuilding and rehabilitation," she wrote.
Ong said Filipinos all over the world and in Illinois are trying to raise funds to help. She said the Filipino community in DeKalb plans to hold a fundraising event next week and will have more details soon. The event will invite everyone to share whatever their can to assist relief efforts, she said.
• The Associated Press contributed to this report.