Local families try to reach loved ones in the Philippines - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Local families try to reach loved ones in the Philippines


"The subscriber cannot be reached," said an automated telephone operator. "Please try again later."

That is the dreaded message Lyn Schiffman gets when she tries to reach her family in the Philippines. They live in Tacloban, the city hardest hit by Typhoon Haiyan.

"Thursday," she said, "That was the last time I heard from them. I called my sister. I called my dad to make sure they prepared for it. They basically are just in their houses. They did not evacuate."

Schiffman moved to the United States from the Philippines in 2009. While typhoons are common there, she says they weren't prepared for this.

"They just felt like, 'Yeah, we're getting ready, but we're used to it.' It's the kind of attitude," Schiffman said. "But, they did not anticipate or they underestimated the storm surge and how bad it was really going to be," she added.

For the last few days, Schiffman says she has not left her computer. She's been listening to online radio streams and searching Google People Finder and Facebook in hopes of hearing an update that her family is OK.

"I literally have been on the computer all day, all night. I just pass out searching," she said.

Unlike Schiffman, the searching by Marc Dy and his family has brought some relief. They found their family members on Facebook, and they are OK.

Dy says after the earthquake a month ago in the same area, this has been devastating.

"There were already plans for a fundraiser for that, and then here we are about a month later, that same area got hit with a typhoon," Dy said. "It's like one after another," he added.

Filipino communities across the country, he said, have been coming together to help suffering families.

"The best thing we can do right now is be there for them," Dy said. "Listen to them. Pray with them in hopes that they can find their families. And, if not, give them that comfort that they need to recover."

The American Red Cross is helping families find loved ones in the areas affected by the storm. If you had contact with someone in the Philippines before the storm and have not been able to reach them after, you can contact your local chapter of the Red Cross for tracking assistance.

If you are looking for a U.S. citizen, contact the U.S. Department of State, Office of Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747.

The Philippine American Association of Middle Tennessee will be collecting donations with the Red Cross at Thursday's Titans Game.

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