Philippine typhoon victims receive federal help

Romy Mindo
Romy Mindo
Jun Colmenares
Jun Colmenares

By Mari-Ela David

OAHU (KHNL) -- Hope of finding survivors from a ferry disaster in the Philippines is fading. Many Hawaii residents with strong ties to the Philippines are waiting for word about their loved ones.

The latest death toll in the Philippines stands at more than 200. More than 800 are still missing.

American divers have joined the search for possible survivors in the seven-story ferry that capsized during the typhoon. The Philippine Coast Guard says there's a slim chance of finding more survivors in the ferry. But officials refuse to call off search efforts.

That's welcome news for members of Hawaii's Filipino community, who still haven't heard from relatives living along the trail of destruction the typhoon left behind.

Bodies continue to wash up along the shoreline in Central Philippines, where a ferry carrying more than 860 people, capsized. Villagers put decomposed corpses in makeshift caskets, while loved ones put together a makeshift memorial.

The aftermath of the deadly typhoon is one that hits home for many Hawaii residents, including Romy Mindo of Ewa Beach, who's younger brother lives not too far from where the ferry turned over.

"He was retrieving some lumber and he didn't know this big wave was coming in, so it came in, it carries him back," said Mindo.

Mindo says his 66-year-old brother, Rudy, would've drowned if their nephews didn't brave out the fierce storm.

"Without regard to their own safety they swam out too and they reached him," he said.

Iloilo city took the brunt of the typhoon. Aiea resident Jun Colmenares says that's where much of his relatives live. He says he still hasn't heard from many of them.

"It's quite difficult because there's no electricity, phone lines are down and so I have to rely on my sisters and brothers who live in Mindanao which is quite far from the Visayas to find out if they have heard anything from our relatives," said Colmenares.

During a meeting with Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, President Bush offered his condolences. He says the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan will deliver aid immediately.

Various Filipino organizations in Hawaii are also helping with relief efforts. On Saturday, several groups will hold a fundraiser at the Filipino Community Center in Waipahu to help typhoon victims.