Singaporeans rally to the aid of disaster victims

Singaporeans and Filipinos here are rallying to help victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force has sent a team to Tacloban, the worst-hit city, to aid rescue efforts by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday.

In a letter to Philippine President Benigno Aquino, Mr Lee offered his condolences and help.

"The Philippines has always demonstrated resilience in the face of adversity. I am confident that your people will pull together and rebuild their lives... Our thoughts are with the people of the Philippines during this difficult time," he wrote.

The Government will donate $50,000 through the Singapore Red Cross (SRC) to support relief efforts. The organisation will contribute $100,000 worth of emergency relief supplies.

In the next few days, a team of SRC volunteers will head to the Visayas region, including the Cebu, Samar and Leyte islands, to help distribute relief items.

Individuals and private groups are raising funds as well.

The Philippine embassy here is directing cash donations to agencies like the Philippine Red Cross and the World Food Programme.

Said first secretary and consul Victorio Dimagiba: "We encourage those who are concerned to give monetary donations rather than donations in kind, such as clothes and foodstuffs."

SRC secretary-general Benjamin William said: "Given the scale of the destruction, more help is urgently needed."

People can give cash to the SRC's Southeast Asia Emergencies donation drive.

Three Singaporean students who had travelled to Tacloban have not been contactable since Haiyan hit the city.

Ms Eileen Heng, Ms Alyssa Chee and Ms Vanessa Chong - all students at Flinders University in Australia - had flown there for a project. Their families and friends have lost contact with them since the typhoon hit, said a friend, Mr Chester Low.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it is in contact with the girls' families, and the Singapore Embassy in Manila is working with the Philippine authorities to ascertain their safety.

Filipina Janice Baroa, 24, a maid, told The Straits Times that her hometown in Iloilo City had seen the strongest category of winds.

"Houses were blown away," she said. Her family, however, is safe. "I sent money to help. I'm over here - what else can I do?"

Offers of assistance have also come from other nations. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has told the National Disaster Mitigation Agency to coordinate the aid, including medicine, drinking water and food, the Jakarta Post reported.

The United States will provide naval and aviation resources, Agence France-Presse reported, while Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia have also offered financial assistance for the relief efforts.

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