Thousands of people are feared dead after a deadly typhoon plummeted across the islands of the central Philippines Friday. Rescue workers are struggling to reach survivors of the super storm, which is estimated to have displaced more than 600,000 people.
The U.S. and other government agencies are mounting a major relief effort to help the victims. Organizations across the nation are also helping to collect donations for relief funds, including the Catholic Relief Services.
The CRS is an international outreach agency holding a relief fund drive November 16 and 17. Catholic churches in the tri-state area are being asked to participate in this collection. St. Thomas Catholic Church in Gassaway, West Virginia is taking part of the drive.
"This will go a long way to help the people in the Philippines," said Rene Gurna, an associate pastor at the St. Thomas church. Gurna was born and raised in the Philippines and still has family living in the devastated islands.
He said this drive definitely hits home.
"I have family members in the Philippines," he said. "My parents are still there and my brother."
Gurna said when he lived on the islands he experienced many typhoons, including a powerful storm in 1991. That storm, however, only killed 5,000 people. This super storm is estimated to have killed 10,000 people.
"When I learned that there was this super typhoon, what goes through my head: ‘oh my God, not again," said Gurna.
Although his family is safe and accounted for, Gurna said their property is severely damaged.
"The house of my parents is partially ripped off. But the house of my brother, since we live close the ocean is totally in shambles," he said.
Many buildings have been flattened and many power lines have been knocked down, making it impossible for Gurna to directly communicate with his parents and brother. However, he has been communicating through Face book with friends living in less affected areas.
"I ask them to update their Facebook so I can know what's really going on," he said, as he pulled up his Facebook news feed on his phone.
Typhoon Haiyan is the forth super storm to hit the Philippines this year. The typhoon hit just three weeks after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Bohol, an island in the Central Visayas.
Those wishing to donate may contribute to the relief fund at local Catholic parishes or on the diocesan website, www.dwc.org.