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Monday, November 11, 2013

Messages to and From Survivors of Typhoon Haiyan

People in Leyte, the Philippines, wrote messages on cardboard and torn-up paper plates to let loved ones know they were safe.GMA News People in Leyte, the Philippines, wrote messages on cardboard and torn-up paper plates to let loved ones know they were safe.

The messages to loved ones from survivors of Typhoon Haiyan were scrawled on paper plates and scraps of paper. Jiggy Manicad collected them as he reported on the devastation from Tacloban for a Philippines television station and took them back to Manila on Sunday. When GMA News broadcast and posted them online, he delivered what some families, unable to reach friends and relatives since Friday, were desperate to hear.

A message from the Palacio family simply said, “Alive.” Another read: “Our house and car were destroyed but WE ARE SAFE.”

In a note to “Keith,” a Palo woman wrote to an Ohio man, a former Peace Corps volunteer who had lived with her family several years ago: “This is Stephanie, our house was destroyed by the typhoon, baby almost drowned but thank God she is safe and we are all safe. We need help from you. We don’t have shelter we are in evacuation center this time. Thanks & God Bless, Stephanie & Bert, Palo, Leyte.”

Writing from Canada on Twitter, Pauline Bidlock thanked Mr. Manicad when she saw a message collected from one of her family members:

Since one of the most powerful storms ever recorded tore through the central Philippines on Friday, as my colleague Keith Bradsher reported, downed communication lines have made it nearly impossible for people to find out if their loved ones are among the survivors.

As many as 10,000 people in Tacloban alone are feared dead in the storm, known locally as Yolanda.

People have turned to the Red Cross, along with online tools, like Google’s Person Finder, to try and get information. They have uploaded photos on Facebook and Twitter with pleas for sightings or anything about the whereabouts of their loved ones. As my colleague Ian Lovett reported, members of the sizable Filipino community in Los Angeles have been left feeling helpless as they struggle to reach loved ones.

By Monday, a Google spokesman said that 47,000 records had been created in the Person Finder database.

Nearly 20,000 people have joined a new Facebook group, called Tacloban (and nearby Waray towns) Yolanda Update. On the page, people check a list of survivors and ask for information about missing relatives and friends. They also exchange details about specific neighborhoods and subdivisions and growing concern about the worsening conditions. And they provide updates when the news is not good.

One woman, who had asked for help to locate her mother’s younger siblings, wrote on the Facebook page Monday night: “Uncle Feloteo and his wife was included in that grave mass this morning while the rest of the family are missing. I mean name it, My cousins, nieces and Nephews. I can’t stop from crying as i drove till i got home. May they rest in peace.”

Many people have posted photos on Twitter of their missing mothers, daughters, friends and relatives, hoping for help in finding them.

Hansen Nichols posted his missing relative’s last text message, sent on Thursday, the day before the storm.

The journalist Erel Cabatbat, covering the aftermath of the tyhpoon in the Tacloban area, was trying to help people get the word out that they were O.K., as well as share the stories of a mother looking for her children.