Whistler's Filipino community is planning fundraisers to do what it can to help those in crisis in the Philippines following the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan.
"There's no phone, there's no roads, there's nothing," said Rudy Bueno of the communities hit by the typhoon. "The airport is flattened. The only people who can go to that place are the military using helicopters."
The super typhoon wiped out whole villages and cities and this has pushed Filipinos here into action to help their friends and relatives back home. Bueno is working with fellow Filipinos to organize two initiatives to help with the relief efforts on the storm-ravaged island of Letye.
This coming weekend donations of cash and canned goods will be collected at Our Lady of the Mountains Church between noon and 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
There will be a fundraising dinner at the church on Sunday, Nov. 24. A meal with Filipino flavours will be served between 5 and 8:30 p.m. at a cost of $10 per person.
Haiyan hit the eastern seaboard of the Philippines on Friday, Nov. 8. Winds slammed into the islands along its path at speeds as high as 275 km/h (170 m/h). With the high winds came massive waves as high as six metres (20 feet).
"People there need food, they need everything," Bueno said. "It's indescribable what happened."
He said his relatives are in the northern part of the country, so they are all safe.
As search and rescue crews advance into the hardest hit areas the number of casualties is growing though there are widely varying in number. The government's disaster relief agency says deaths are at about 2,200, while local officials put the death toll at 10,000 or more. The relief agency is reporting that more than four million people were impacted by the storm.
The Catholic Church in Squamish and the Church on 99 both have large numbers of Filipinos in their congregations and leaders with both churches said aid initiatives are being planned.
A benefit concert in Vancouver is also in the works, and it is to include Squamish singer Audrey Rose Arellano, who has family members living in the Philippines.
Premier Christy Clark issued a statement about the devastation. She said the images and video coming from the impacted areas are heartbreaking.
"Our prayers go out to the victims, all those British Columbians with family and friends in the storm's path, and everyone else in the country as they cope," said Clark.
BC Liquor stores are collecting cash donations for those who want to contribute to the disaster relief efforts led the by Red Cross. Donations to the effort can also be made directly to the Red Cross at www.redcross.ca.
Meanwhile, the Better Business Bureau is cautioning well-intentioned donors to do a little homework before donating to the international effort to help. According to the BBB, the collection of clothing, food and other goods may be a waste of time because relief organizations usually buy goods near the disaster location to help speed delivery and avoid expensive long distance freight costs.