York County’s Filipinos anxious as historic storm batters Philippines

adys@heraldonline.comNovember 8, 2013 

— Some Filipino people in York County with family members in the storm-ravaged Philippines still have not been able to find out if loved ones - or even entire villages - have survived the typhoon that is being called the strongest storm to ever make landfall.

Veronica Mahaffy, a cook at Tropical Sunrise restaurant in Rock Hill who is from a village on the island of Samar in the central Philippine archipelago, has not been able to get any information about her father, siblings, or other family, said Tess Baldwin, a Philippines native who has lived in Rock Hill for 42 years running first the Tropical Escape, and now Tropical Sunrise restaurants.

“Right now there are no phones to find out anything,” Baldwin said. “She is very worried. We all are.”

Village homes typically are not nearly as structurally sound as urban homes in cities such as Manila, Baldwin said. The Philippines has more than 7,000 large and small islands, with a population of about 100 million. As many as a million people fled homes in the central islands as the storm approached.

“Some of the village houses are built on stilts,” she said. “Some are right next to the water.”

The storm lashed islands such as Samar with waves that reached 15 feet and winds over 200 miles per hour. Filipino authorities said that some places remain without any communications and damage, injury and death assessment is ongoing.

The Baldwin family said relatives on the large northern island of Luzon, where they come from, has made it through the storm. Roger Baldwin, Tessie’s husband, said that in several visits to the Philippines he has seen the resilience of people after storms smashed the nation of hundreds of islands. Many rural buildings, made from bamboo, have to be repeatedly repaired or rebuilt.

“People there are very strong, but they are saying this is the worst storm there ever,” Roger Baldwin said. “None of knows yet how bad the damage is.”

Other families spent worried hours Friday finally securing information that family members were all right. Sarah Nesbit, co-owner of Best Way automotive in Rock Hill, said she reached her mother in the Philippines and found other family members using Facebook social media.

“The storm just pounded them,” Nesbit said.

Andrew Dys * 803-329-4065

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