WINNIPEG – Canadians with family members in the Philippines were anxiously watching TVs and the internet for news of a massive typhoon that has devastated the Asian country.
Many of those people live in Winnipeg, which boasts a sizeable Filipino-Canadian community estimated at about 60-thousand.
The president of the Philippine Canadian Centre of Manitoba says some people were having a tough time reaching areas that are hardest hit.
“I met a lady at the centre who was trying to reach her family, but there’s no communication at all in that area. Her sister in Manila was relaying news,” Lito Taruc said on Saturday.
“It is a difficult time.”
At least 151 people are confirmed dead in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. Some Filipino officials said late Saturday that feared the death toll could climb to 10,000.
Prime Minister Harper issued a statement on Saturday saying that Canada is standing by to assist in any way it can.
“Our officials in Ottawa and at our mission in Manila continue to closely monitor the situation, and remain in contact with relevant local officials and humanitarian partners.
“I am keenly aware of all the Filipino-Canadians anxiously waiting for news on their loved ones.”
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced Saturday that Canada would provide as much as $5 million to support humanitarian organizations helping typhoon victims.
Baird tweeted on Saturday that he spoke to the Filipino ambassador to Canada to offer the sympathy of Canadians.
Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger pledged $100,000 on behalf of the province to help people affected by the typhoon. He explained the money would flow through the Manitoba Council for International Co-operation.
“The lives of thousands of families have been forever changed by what is being called one of the most powerful typhoons to ever hit landfall,” Selinger said in a news release.
“Our thoughts are with those families today as they face such unimaginable loss and devastation.”
Taruc said the local Filipino community in Manitoba had already started a fundraising effort two weeks ago to assist victims of a magnitude-7.2 earthquake that hit the country’s island province of Bohol late last month.
Many people there who were living in tents following the earthquake have been moved from the area.
Taruc said that members of Manitoba’s Filipino community were dropping off canned food and money at his centre for the typhoon relief effort.
The food, he explained, could be shipped to the Philippines in boxes supplied by members.
He said churches and other community organizations were also helping raise funds for relief efforts.
The typhoon slammed into six central Philippine islands on Friday, wiping out buildings and levelling seaside homes.
The storm is now moving toward Vietnam.
The federal government has set up phone numbers for Canadians looking for information on relatives and friends who may have been caught in the affected areas. They are 1-800-387-3124 or 613-996-8885.