PHILIPPINES RELIEF EFFORT
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
A fundraiser for victims of the Leyte mudslide in the Philippines was held yesterday during a radio KNDI broadcast from the Filipino Community Center in Waipahu. Mila Beltran, center, urged "Buhay Hawaii" listeners to donate. Next to her at right was "Buhay Hawaii" co-host Lynne Gutierrez. Behind them were, from left, Nenita Jose, Eddie Agas and state Rep. Felipe "Jun" Abinsay.
Radio appeal raises $17,650 for victims
Waipahu resident Resty Baptista said he was saddened by news of a massive landslide that covered an entire village in the southern part of Leyte in the Philippines.
"They need all the help they can get at this point," said Baptista, who donated $200 during a fundraiser held yesterday at the Filipino Community Center in Waipahu.
Hawaii residents who want to help with the relief effort can send checks to the American Red Cross-Hawaii State Chapter at 4155 Diamond Head Road, Honolulu, HI 96816, or the Filipino Community Center at 94-428 Mokuola St., Waipahu, HI 96797. Be sure to note on the check that the donation is to help victims of the landslide in Leyte.
Baptista and other people stopped by or called announcers from KNDI 1270 AM who were conducting a live radio broadcast at the FilCom Center to make a donation or a pledge for the victims of the landslide.
The three-hour event raised an estimated $12,650 in donations and pledges. An additional $5,000 was donated by community members and leaders during a meeting held at the Philippine Consulate General in Nuuanu Friday, bringing the total to $17,650.
More people continued to drop off donations after yesterday's fundraiser ended, said Jun Colmenares, executive vice president of the Congress of Visayan Organizations, who coordinated the event.
Colmenares said even though they did not reach their goal of $20,000 yesterday, he was pleased with the outcome.
"I think that's great. That's just the beginning," Colmenares said. More fundraisers are planned.
During an interview in her hospital bed yesterday, Alicia Miravalles checked on the wounds she suffered when she was swept by the landslide in her village in Guinsaugon, southeast of Manila.
Colmenares and Rep. Felipe "Jun" Abinsay of the Hawaii International Relief Organization, who helped organize the fundraiser, have set a goal to raise another $30,000 in upcoming events.
A landslide struck the village of Guinsaugon on Friday near the town of St. Bernard in southern Leyte. Those who assisted with the fundraiser yesterday said the village devastated by the landslide was mostly populated by farmers.
"It's very, very sad," Abinsay said, adding that he was a farmer at a young age when he lived in the Philippines.
As of yesterday 11 neighboring villages have been affected, and residents have been warned of loose terrain in the area, according to Lt. Col. Michael Ramos, director of the current operations division of Marine Forces Pacific.
Soldiers and workers lowered body bags of landslide victims during a mass burial yesterday in St. Bernard town, Leyte island.
About 1,500 people were displaced from neighboring villages and are housed at schools and community shelters, Ramos said at a news conference held yesterday at Camp Smith.
Many families were affected by the landslide, including children who lost their parents, he added.
Relief efforts are now being focused on a school building and a community hall. "There is a lot of mud and rocks on top of those structures. Our efforts on locating survivors are focused on those sites," Ramos said.
Soil stability experts from Hawaii and the Army Corps of Engineers are en route to southern Leyte to assist in rescue efforts, he said.
"Hundreds of sailors and Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit are on the ground assisting with the delivery of supplies and literally digging through the mud by hand and with light equipment, looking for survivors and otherwise assisting victims of this terrible tragedy," Ramos said.
The muddy terrain has made it difficult for military personnel and community members to trudge through the land. "You literally step on it and literally sink up to your knees or your waist, and that poses a problem," Ramos said. "In some places the mud is hundreds of feet deep, and in some places it's 20 feet deep."
Philippine army soldiers worked yesterday with U.S. Marines of Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, to build a pathway through the mud left from a landslide in Leyte.
A new C-17 Globemaster cargo jet at Hickam Air Force Base was to depart last night with supplies and equipment.
It is the first time the jet, named Spirit of Hawaii - Ke Aloha, will be used for humanitarian assistance since its arrival to Hickam Air Force Base two weeks ago, according to 1st Lt. Craig Savage. The jet allows the military to quickly deploy to any part of the world, Savage said.
"Every available aircraft that we have is supporting this operation," Ramos said. "We have a tremendous flow of relief supplies moving toward the disaster site, and we have a lot of very competent and very motivated people from the U.S. armed forces from across all branches working to support this effort."
A Taiwanese rescue team prepared their gear after disembarking from a U.S. Marine CH-46 transport helicopter to aid in the search for victims.