CHICAGO (CBS) — The ranking diplomat for the Philippines in the Midwest said Wednesday his country needs not just heroes, but superheroes to help feed the needy and start rebuilding the typhoon-ravaged island nation – a job he estimates will take two years.
Consul General Leo Herrera-Lim estimated the local Filipino community has raised $80,000 already, and he hopes to double that at Friday’s fundraising lunch at Sunda restaurant, at 110 W. Illinois St.
As of Wednesday, the official toll from Typhoon Haiyan stood at 2,275, and President Benigno Aquino III said he expected the final death toll to be around 2,500 — far lower the 10,000 initially feared.
Herrera-Lim said many of the first responders swung into action, even after their own homes and families had been destroyed.
“We have heroes on the ground, but the challenge is enormous, and we need more than heroes. We need superheroes too,” he said.
Immediately after Haiyan struck the Philippines last week, the Philippines consulate in Chicago was besieged by more than 5,000 calls from people trying to learn the fate of loved ones.
He said social media sites, Google’s people finder, and slowly returning phone lines have answered those questions; so now the consulate is dealing with calls about aiding victims of the record-breaking typhoon, the equivalent of a hurricane in the northwest Pacific Ocean.
Some 580,000 people have been displaced by the storm, and many people have been risking their lives to get bare necessities. Officials said eight people were crushed to death when thousands of survivors stormed a government rice warehouse, and looters made off with 100,000 bags of rice.
U.S. Marine Corps Osprey aircraft have been ferrying in limited supplies. Herrera-Lim said those efforts will be radically increased immediately as the aircraft carrier USS George Washington and her support ships reach the stricken nation on Wednesday to offload additional food and shelter materials.
“The U.S. military’s been able to pretty much restore a bit of the Tacloban area, one of the hardest-hit cities,” he said.
Herrera-Lim expressed gratitude for those who’ve set up local drop-off points for food and clothing donations, but he suggested cash donations instead, because that would more quickly get help to those who needed.
“Some of the clothes, some of the canned goods coming from countries that are the opposite side of the world might reach the Philippines 30 days later,” he said.
He said cash would help typhoon victims immediately get food and shelter material; he suggested making donations to the Philippine or American Red Cross organizations.