SALT LAKE CITY — Clean water and food are in short supply in the Philippines after the devastating typhoon that killed thousands. The country is in desperate need of food and relief efforts.
Tens of thousands have been left homeless, and witnesses said the smell of the debris, mixed with the dead, is overwhelming.
"We are calling for your help," said one woman. "If possible, please bring us food. We don't have anything to eat."
Chris Jan Cortes of Salt Lake City was overjoyed to learn that his family members are alive. His parents, brother, wife, children, and in-laws wait for help. They sent photographs to show the destruction of their town, Ormoc City.
Ormoc City is located about 100 miles west of Tacloban. The Cortes family said their home lost its roof. The storm leveled most other structures. Neighbors have now come to them for shelter. Cortes said he has already sent money and some supplies to help them.
SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah group gathered Tuesday to help package food for victims of Philippines typhoon.
A gong rang out, signaling that 1,000 food packets had been filled, each of which will eventually feed six people. Cheers erupted throughout the room.
By the end of the night, the approximately 50 volunteers had prepared, sealed and boxed up more than 5,000 food packets for the Stop Hunger Now program, a South Carolina-based nonprofit that targets global hunger.
The group reserves 10 percent of its food stock annually for natural disaster response and has pledged to send 1 million meals to the starving and desperate people left in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan. The first shipment of more than 250,000 meals is tentatively scheduled to leave California on Wednesday.
Overman and her husband, Scott, of Holladay, had been planning to attend Tuesday's food packing event for several weeks to learn more about Stop Hunger Now's efforts to combat chronic hunger around the world and its recently organized Salt Lake City extension.
David Fairall, who was tasked with adding the vitamin packet and holding each bag as it was filled, said he was especially grateful for the opportunity to volunteer in light of the storm.
"My wife was just saying to me today she has been reading a lot about the Philippines and said, 'We should really do something for them,'" said Fairall, a Salt Lake City resident. "When (organizers) said this was going to directly affect those people and was going to go to those people, it definitely feels like there's more meaning behind this now."
Stop Hunger Now reports it costs only 25 cents for each person it feeds, many of whom are children who get the meals from their schools. The meals, in turn, encourage children to stay in class.
"Looking at the pictures right now, their community — it's a coast community — it's bad," Cortes said. "I'm very happy to receive news that today is the first time we got mass relief — like a truckload of food."
Latter-day Saint missionary, Sara Webber of Tooele, was able to make a phone call to her family Tuesday morning to let them know she was safe. But, she and the other sister missionaries had to swim out of their apartment in Tacloban, then waded in water up to their heads to get to a crevice on the roof where they survived the storm. Webber said she gave away all of her food, water and clothing before she was evacuated to Manila.
The LDS disaster response team said they are closely monitoring the situation and trying to make contact with members of the church as well as helping in relief efforts. The LDS Church is providing temporary shelter to more than 14,000 displaced persons in 200 Church buildings.
The LDS Church is also working with the Filipino government and other organizations to distribute food, water and other life-sustaining supplies to those in affected areas.
In Tacloban, witnesses reported that people are experiencing a growing sense of desperation, of frustration and of fear. However, C-130s have begun to deliver supplies from Manila, and the planes have returned loaded with storm survivors.
The man leading relief operations for the U.S. said time is his biggest enemy.
"I need the rest of the world, the international donor community, to get mobilized to help the Filipinos in their hour of need," said Marine General Paul Kennedy. "A week from now will be too late."
Utahns willing to donate* to the cause can attend a concert fundraiser. The Filipino Catholic community with other Filipino civic and cultural organizations in Salt Lake City will have a free concert on Nov. 24 at 5 p.m. at Juan Diego High School in Draper. Everyone is invited to come and donate for the victims of Haiyan in the Philippines.
For details of the event, contact Nikon Omero at 801-808-6456.
*ksl.com has not verified the accuracy of the information provided with respect to the account nor does ksl.com assure that the monies deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account you should consult your own advisors and otherwise proceed at your own risk.