US Filipinos pray, seek word from loved ones in wake of deadly typhoon

PHILIPPINES - Filipinos across the United States sought word from loved ones in their Pacific island homeland and prayed for missing and displaced family on Sunday in the aftermath of a typhoon that devastated the central Philippines and killed at least 10,000 people.

In the San Francisco suburb of Pinole, about 150 Filipino parishioners prayed during mass at Saint Joseph Catholic Church for relatives and friends unaccounted for from typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 600,000 people homeless in the Southeast Asian archipelago.

Churchgoers lamented that the storm struck less than a month after a massive earthquake caused severe damage to parts of the central Philippines, flattening homes and businesses and leaving 222 people dead.

"This is like a double whammy," said Eddie Castanas, 32, a church vicar whose parents and sisters lost houses in the town of Calape, in the central province of Bohol, from the quake and whose fate after the typhoon remains unclear.

Castanas said it took two weeks to make contact with his family after the earthquake, and he is hopeful that they survived this calamity as well.

"I know my people are a very determined people," he said. "I just have to hold on to hope."

In the New York City borough of Queens, televisions in restaurants, bakeries and other shops along a 15-block thoroughfare dubbed Little Manila were tuned to news from the Philippines, with residents commiserating over frantic efforts to get in touch with missing loved ones.

Asuncion Hipe, a nursing assistant, said she had been unable to reach her three sisters and a nephew in the Philippines'remote Samar province, where the storm made its initial landfall and authorities said at least 300 people were dead.

"I keep on calling them and nobody answers me. It doesn't go through; it says 'out of coverage area,'" she said. "I don't care about the property. I just want them to be alive."

Even for many of those who had been able to reach family in their homeland, emotions ran high.

Angelina Flores, who was sending money to family in Cebu province, which was directly in the storm's path, said her uncle and other family were without water and power and in desperate need of supplies.

"My house, my brother's house, is gone," she said.

In Los Angeles, about 50 people attended services and a lunch on Sunday at the Filipino Christian Church that raised $200 for storm victims.

Marcelle Gossett, who immigrated to the United States 11 years ago, had tears in her eyes and placed her hands together in prayer as she recounted the plight of her two sons, their wives, and her 14 grandchildren, all of whom live in Cebu City.

Gossett said her sons told her by phone that they were without electricity and water and were low on food.

"Trees are falling down from the backyard onto the house,"she said. "I told them to go to the rescue, but they're stuck and can't leave the house. And the rescues are already full."

Pastor Jeffrey Ilagan, 30, five months into a planned three-year stay in the United States, said his wife and three young children in Baguio City in the northern Philippines had weathered the storm after a harrowing night of strong winds beating against their windows.

"Being away from my family is very horrible," he said.

Ilagan said he advised his wife to keep the children home from school and indoors until authorities were able to clear much of the debris littering the area and restore power.

"If electrical wires fall, people will be electrocuted," he said.