Typhoon Haiyan: Families desperate for news of loved ones

By Ashburton Guardian

Large parts of Tacioban City have been wiped out by the typhoon. Photo / AP
Large parts of Tacioban City have been wiped out by the typhoon. Photo / AP

June and Ben McOmish received the phone call thousands of anxious parents across the world would have wanted to hear yesterday.

"I'm all right," their son Scotty, 48, said through a breaking phone line from the typhoon-torn Philippines.

Their cellphones never left their sides, as Mr and Mrs McOmish, from Ashburton, spent a nervous weekend with Scotty's young son, Connor, wondering if they would ever see him and his family alive again as Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest recorded, ripped through the country, killing about 10,000 people on one island alone.

Scotty McOmish and his daughter Katharine-June, 5, survived.
Scotty McOmish and his daughter Katharine-June, 5, survived.

Scotty's family are based in the town of Negros, where they recently built a new home, but he was working at the time in his geothermal energy job near the island of Leyte - one of the worst-hit areas.

Mr and Mrs McOmish made tireless attempts to contact their son, to no avail, but yesterday morning he phoned to say he was all right, and then moments later texted to say his wife, Anna Torres, and children Katharine-June, 5, and Hamish-George, 3, were okay too.

"The connection wasn't very good, but he did say it just looked as though the place had been hit by a nuclear bomb," Mrs McOmish said.

Although the exact location of Scotty's family was unknown when the typhoon hit, Scotty said he was on a boat heading towards Leyte Island, returning from a nearby island where he was working.

Their story is one of hope for the Filipino community, and 376 families of New Zealanders, many of whom are yet to hear from their loved ones.

Auckland couple Dennis and Amie Maga are fearing the worst after the typhoon ripped through their home city of Tacloban. The Magas last heard from family members on Friday, and after seeing photos of the area where Mrs Maga's mother lives, they are starting to prepare for the worst.

"It's really terrible," said Mr Maga. "We don't see how she [his mother-in-law] will be able to survive. It [Tacloban] is totally flat."

They have also yet to hear from Mrs Maga's brother and two of her aunts, despite constant phone calls, emails and Facebook messages.

"We are scared that in the next [few] days, the message we are going to receive is really bad. That's what we are avoiding, but what can you do?" said Mr Maga.

Aid agencies and government officials said the death toll was likely to rise as rescuers reached regions cut off by the typhoon.

Mr Maga said it had been difficult talking about the possibility that their loved ones had died.

"Every time we discuss that, we are really just quite emotional about it," he said. "How would you survive if the Government has estimated 10,000?"

The Magas will fly to the Philippines if they do not hear good news in the next few days.

To donate

Red Cross: redcross.org.nz
World Vision: worldvision.org.nz
Unicef New Zealand: unicef.org.nz
Tear Fund: tearfund.org.nz
Save the Children: savethechildren.org.nz
Oxfam: oxfam.org.nz.

Where to go for help

*The Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises all New Zealanders in affected areas to follow the advice of the local authorities and keep family and friends at home informed of their safety.

* For consular assistance, contact the New Zealand Embassy in Manila on +63-2-891-5358.

- NZ Herald

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