South Surrey resident Raquel Padilla was only 45 days old when she survived her first typhoon.
Although she was very young, she can remember her parents telling her how they had to jump out a window in the family home as the building collapsed around them.
That was nearly 30 years ago.
For the last few days, Padilla has been trying to find out as much information as possible following the onslaught of Typhoon Haiyan – packing winds of more than 300 kilometres per hours at its peak – which destroyed much of the Philippines on Nov. 7.
Padilla’s family lives in the province of Capiz on the northern coast of Panay Island, an area known for its beautiful coastlines and abundant seafood.
Once the storm had subsided, the vibrant farming and fishing community had been reduced to a wasteland of splintered wood debris and twisted metal roofing.
“Everyone is there, my parents, my cousins, my aunts,” said Padilla, her voice filled with emotion. “Everything is flattened.”
Padilla moved to Canada in 2010 and is currently working as a nanny. Her family in the Philippines is now trying to survive the aftermath of the worst typhoon to hit landfall in recorded history.
Her parents have been able to get to Manila, and the rest of her family survived the storm, but like many others, are in desperate need of help. Their homes no longer exist, and the area of Capiz where they live is under water.
“People don’t own cars,” said Padilla. “They rely so heavily on public transportation, but all of the transit system is destroyed. There are no roads left.”
She is concerned that much of the media attention is focused on the country’s larger cities, however all of the Philippines is in serious need. The return of any electricity alone could take up to six months.
“I can’t stop crying,” Padilla said, “hearing stories of parents holding on to their children and suddenly they’re gone only to find them later, dead.
“I have such a heavy heart right now.”
After watching the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan over the last few days, the president of the Surrey Philippine Association, Narima Dela Cruz, has been finding the images very difficult to process.
“It’s beyond words,” said the Surrey realtor of the destruction. “I survived Typhoon Nina in 1987. I remember all the coconut trees falling down in the heavy winds.”
She knows of three Surrey families who have still had no contact with family and are anxiously watching both the Canadian Red Cross website and Philippine news for any footage or acknowledgment that their relatives are still alive.
“One woman has had no contact with any of her five children,” said Dela Cruz. “All she can do right now is cry.”
The natural disaster has touched nearly all the nearly 20,000 Filipino-Canadians living in Surrey, she said.
For White Rock resident and former business owner Jhet Vanruyven (left), images of the typhoon damage has been shocking.
Through Facebook and email she has been in contact with friends living throughout the region.
“Friends have told me about bodies spread all over, uncollected,” she said. “(Survivors) are hungry… they have lost everything. This has really hit home for me.
“Filipino people have touched many lives locally…” she said, “so it’s time to help them in return.”
The Canadian government has pledged to match all individual donations to registered charities helping out in the region.To donate to the Red Cross Typhoon Haiyan fund, go to http://bit.ly/1eMvQcF
A fundraising event for Haiyan survivors takes place tonight at the Grand Taj Banquet Hall in Surrey, with all funds raised going to the Canadian Red Cross.