Marketing alumnus Benedict Bernadas has family in the Leyte province of the eastern Philippines where Super Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda, hit hardest on Nov. 9.
Much of his family on both his father and mother’s side live in Tacloban City, where the storm left the most devastation. Bernadas said he knows that his relatives are alive.
“Since the storm struck, some of my relatives in nearby Cebu went over there to try to find them physically,” Bernadas said. “So, right now we’re trying to get them to evacuate out of the city to somewhere nearby where it’s actually safe and sanitary.”
With winds up to 195 mph, the typhoon was one of the strongest storms ever recorded. The typhoon’s death toll has reached at least 3,600 as of Nov. 15, according to a report by the Associated Press.
Bernadas said he saw devastating photos his cousin took of a house where his family lived near the waterfront off a main road of Tacloban, which is still standing but sustained heavy damage.
“I just feel helpless,” he said. “We all thought it was just another typhoon, like hurricane season here, but once we heard the news — all this death and destruction — it hit hard because being here knowing that you want to do as much as you can, but there’s not a whole lot because you’re across the ocean.”
He plans on going to visit his family there as soon as he can to see that they’re safe and out of harm’s way.
Bernadas said students can help by donating to organizations such as the Philippine Red Cross, Save the Children and the Catholic Relief Service.
“Whatever anyone can do, whether it’s donate to these organizations, send their thoughts or even pray, it will help,” Bernadas said.
Computer science senior and president of the Filipino Student Association Nikki De Ocampo said she also has family in the country, but luckily they weren’t in the hardest hit area.
De Ocampo said the Office of Student Volunteerism is providing an online page where students can donate to the relief effort at http://utdallas.edu/volunteer.
She also said the FSA is holding a talent show in December of which all the proceeds will go to the relief effort. More information can be found at the FSA Facebook page.