MEXICO, Maine — When Philippine native Cherry Smith heard about the typhoon in the Philippines on Saturday, she found herself glued to the television, anxiously awaiting each update.
Smith, of Mexico, grew up on the island of Negros, which is almost 300 miles west of Tacloban, a city of more than 200,000 that was hit hardest by the storm, one of the strongest on record.
Smith said her thoughts first went to her family, who still live in the Philippines.
“My mom lives on Negros, still, and my sister and my brothers live in metro Manila,” Smith said. “It was pretty far away from where the worst part of the storm hit.”
She said she is signed up with Philippines news, so she got updates as they happened.
“On Saturday, after I heard about the storm, I started crying,” she said. “It was so bad, you couldn’t even imagine. I called my family and they told me they were doing great. The communication on the call was choppy, but they were OK.”
The Philippines uses its own public storm-warning signals that rank typhoons on a scale of 1 to 5, similar to the Fujita scale used to measure tornadoes, Smith said.
“A storm that was Signal 1 would be just rain, and the second wouldn’t be too bad, either,” Smith said. “Once you get to Signal 3, 4 or 5, that’s when you should worry.”
Smith’s family told her they were dealing with a typhoon that was ranked at Signal 4, which is the second-highest ranking for the Philippines. When the storm first hit the Philippines, weather officials said Typhoon Haiyan would be comparable to a strong, Category 4 hurricane in the U.S.
Smith said she had experienced typhoons in metro Manila, the highest of which was a Signal 3. “That one, for me, was pretty bad. We were walking around in knee-high water, but I never experienced anything as bad as the one that just happened.”
Beth Davis, a Mexico resident also born in the Philippines, said she still has family and friends living in the Philippines whom she has not heard from since the typhoon.
“The problem is that there is no power in most of the country right now,” Davis said, “so we have no idea what happened to them right now. I want to reach out to them so bad and do something to help, but financially, we can’t. It just feels so hopeless right now.”
Growing up in the city of Cebu, she had to cope with the typhoons that swept across the islands, Davis said.
“I still remember the roof being blown off of our house,” she said. “You just have to stay inside and hope for the best. If you go outside, you risk being hit by wood or the coconut trees flying around.”
Davis added, “I’ve been to these places that have been affected by the typhoon. I’ve seen these places, and now, I watch on the news and it’s so heartbreaking, seeing the bodies floating in the water. We can donate money and help, but there are people there right now who need food and water and electricity.”
Davis said she would be praying for relief for the victims.
“That’s all we can do right now,” she said. “We can pray to God that something can be done for those suffering.”
Smith encouraged everyone to donate to the American Red Cross to help with the rescue efforts. To donate, visit the website at redcross.org/donate, and click on “Typhoon Appeal.”