Filipino students gather goods in typhoon's wake

Large swathes of the Philippines are in ruins after the historic, devastating Typhoon Haiyan made landfall last Friday with winds reaching up to 195 mph. Cities such as Tacloban have literally been reduced to rubble.

In response to this tragedy, Santa Monica College's Filipino community is beginning to mobilize efforts to create awareness and gather aid. The campus' Filipino club, Kapisanang Pilipino, held a special meeting on Thursday to discuss ideas on how to help.

"My entire family is in the Philippines," said club member Nailah Barcelona. "They are very active on Facebook. As soon as the typhoon hit, I contacted them online because the phones there don't work. My mom's home in the province was destroyed. We're collecting money from each family member to help restore it.

The latest figures reported by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council of the Philippines are of 3,982 dead. Although this is a vast reduction from the original reported figures of more than 10,000 dead, the numbers could still grow as bodies wash ashore and others are found buried beneath debris and rubble.

"My cousin lives in the zone where it happened, and luckily her home was well structured, and her children are fine," Barcelona said. "But 90 percent of the homes are shacks over there, and they were destroyed."

The club decided during its meeting to begin posting information on their official Facebook page, also named "Kapisanang Pilipino," asking anyone and everyone to donate what they can. A particular focus will be put on rice, which is the Philippines' most basic and accessible source of food.

Carmina Dimaano, the club's president, has family still living in the Philippines.

"I have an aunt who lives there," she said, "She still has her home, but her land is gone. Everything in the Philippines right now is literally trash. Everything that was up is not there anymore. And since the Philippines is such a flat land, that just made it worse."

On how relatives and others are coping, Dimaano said it is difficult.

"Right now they are trying to get as much help and supplies as they need," she said. "Granted, they are getting help from other countries, but it's not enough. According to my aunt, it will take time because everything was wiped out completely."

SMC geography professor William Selby said that Haiyan was a major weather event but also part of a rare, possibly once-in-a-lifetime event humans have faced for centuries.

"That storm could have happened 100 years ago, or 2,000 years ago," said Selby, "It may be the most powerful storm that has ever made landfall in the history of the world, very impressive. These storms are events people have had to cope with for centuries."

Selby pointed out that not every major storm can or should be blamed on climate change, but with sea temperatures growing warmer and producing more constant water evaporation, which in turn releases more warm water into the air, the data shows these kinds of storms are becoming more powerful.

"You warm up the oceans, you warm up the atmosphere, we would expect that these storms would be more powerful," Selby said. "What we could assume, all based on scientific theory, that these storms would become more powerful. It seems like that's happening."

The size of the storm applied to California would cover territory from Santa Barbara to the Mexican border, Selby said.

"The winds that storm had could wipe anything off the map, and that's what it did," Selby said. "Once you have winds sustained at 195 mph anything goes."

Kapisanang Pilipino will have a box available during its regular meetings, which are every Thursday from 11:15 a.m. to 12:35 p.m., in which anyone on campus can drop off clothing, canned foods or money donations.

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