Typhoon Haiyan: Filipinos worldwide mobilise to help typhoon victims

Typhoon Haiyan: Filipinos worldwide mobilise to help typhoon victims
A woman looks on while standing next to a donation box for victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan in Hong Kong on November 13, 2013.

HONG KONG - Filipinos abroad who have spent harrowing days trying to contact loved ones after a typhoon devastated their homeland are mobilising to send relief, despite misgivings about corrupt local officials pocketing aid on the ground.

With thousands feared dead and aid only trickling in after Super Typhoon Haiyan laid waste to entire coastal towns Friday, many among the ten-million-strong disaspora are still frantically trying to find out if their relatives are alive and their homes still standing.

And from Asian capitals to the United States and Europe, Filipino communities are taking to churches and social media sites to raise funds for communities left with nothing - and growing increasingly desperate.

In Hong Kong, where some 150,000 Filipinos work as domestic helpers, the Red Cross said a hotline set up to trace the missing had been overwhelmed since the typhoon smashed into the nation's central islands, displacing an estimated 673,000.

"The maids were crying. They didn't know what to do," spokeswoman Denise Wong told AFP.

Liezel Miralles, a 40-year-old domestic worker from Batad, a coastal town of 20,000 people, had not been able to contact her husband and other relatives to find out if they had survived.

"I feel very, very, very sad, my whole family is there," Miralles said as she bought groceries for her employer at a street-side market. "There is no house, no phone, no connection."

On Sunday, when Hong Kong's downtown throngs with domestic helpers congregating on their day off, worker groups will hold an "information drive" on the crisis and gather donations.

But support group United Filipinos is one of many organisations and individuals around the world planning to direct aid only to non-government agencies.

"We are afraid that if we send to the government, it will just to go their pockets and will not reach the beneficiaries," secretary general Eman Villanueva told AFP.

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