Typhoon: Illawarra relatives wait, hope, pray

Mila Rawnsley and daughter Suzie Rawnsley are relieved to know their family members are safe. Picture: GREG TOTMAN Utter devastation: Illawarra grandmother Mila Rawnsley and her daughter Suzie Rawnsley have received confirmation that family members in the city of Tacloban have survived typhoon Haiyan, amid reports of death and destruction. But the two women continue to worry. Picture: GREG TOTMAN
Nanjing Night Net

Utter devastation: Illawarra grandmother Mila Rawnsley and her daughter Suzie Rawnsley have received confirmation that family members in the city of Tacloban have survived typhoon Haiyan, amid reports of death and destruction. But the two women continue to worry. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

The first Mila Rawnsley knew of the tragedy that had befallen her home city in the Philippines was a message posted on Facebook by her nephew.

It said simply: “Pray for Tacloban.”

The Illawarra grandmother has done little else since typhoon Haiyan smashed into the city of 220,000, where up to 10,000 people are believed to have died.

After a tense wait, she could finally communicate with her elderly sisters and other relatives who live in the city.

With the help of her daughter Suzie Rawnsley, the grandmother learnt via a single social-media message that her family had survived.

However, in the same message she learnt they had no food or water and their homes had been destroyed.

She also learnt citizens of the city had begun to turn on each other as basic necessities became more scarce.

“My aunties are in their eighties so they are trying to get to the airport, but they can’t walk because people are attacking them,” Suzie Rawnsley said.

“People are attacking them for their food because it’s just a case of survival.

“I’ve only seen one message from family in Tacloban city, other than that I’m speaking to my family in Manila.”

The goal is to get those family members in Tacloban to Manila, but military aircraft are reportedly struggling with numbers.

Only 110 people can board each flight.

Media reports emerging from the city have painted a picture of utter devastation, with few buildings surviving the winds of up to 378km/h.

Beaches on the ordinarily beautiful coastline are reported to be littered with bodies since the typhoon made landfall on Friday.

As well as worrying about her family, Mila is unsure whether a family house has survived the carnage.

To take her mind off the disaster, Mila has been helping out her daughter with the grandchildren.

She also continues to pray.

“I have been praying to help the people there,” she said.

Filipino community rallies to offer help

THE Illawarra Filipino community has gone into overdrive, organising donations to reach the typhoon-ravaged cities and towns as soon as possible.

Multiple Filipino organisations have united, each looking into their financial books to see how much can be spared to send back home.

They have also been working on behalf of concerned members in an attempt to put them in touch with family and friends in devastated areas.

Marlene Harkness, from the Filipino Needy Children’s Fund Inc, said she had been ‘‘worried sick’’ until learning her family had survived.

‘‘I’ve spoken to my mum this morning finally,’’ Ms Harkness said at a Filipino community group meeting yesterday.

‘‘She said ‘We are all OK’ so thank God for that. But they need food they need water, they need their necessities.’’

She said due to the devastation, getting goods to the worst hit areas was difficult, however air drops had begun.

Filipino groups in the Illawarra that are undertaking fund-raising activities include Filipino Needy Children’s Fund Inc, the Australian Philippine Association, the Illawarra Filipino and Multicultural Group, Club Filipino Illawarra as well as Triple R Asian Grocery in Wollongong.

Donations can also be made to the Australian Red Cross, CARE Australia and UNICEF.

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