Amid reports of as many as 10,000 people killed by Friday's typhoon, but without any way of knowing if their loved ones are safe, area Filipinos have begun launching relief efforts they say could last "forever."
"Whole villages have been wiped out. People have nothing," Hayen David, owner of the PhillyPinoy grocery in King Of Prussia, said Sunday.
David, 36, set up collection boxes at his store for donations of clothing and nonperishable food.
The Filipino-American Association of Philadelphia is preparing to turn over proceeds from several recent charitable events to typhoon relief, according to its chairman, and is planning more fund-raisers.
"We were caught completely by surprise," said Rommel Rivera, a physician from Media, "but we're doing all we can."
With wind speeds of nearly 200 miles per hour, the typhoon, known officially as Haiyan and locally as Yolanda, is the strongest tropical cyclone in the world this year.
David, who opened his ethnic food market four years ago, said he felt compelled to help Saturday when he saw two customers clutching one another and weeping. The older one said she had just arrived from the island hardest hit, where she has four daughters.
"She said they have no electricity, no phones," David said. "She didn't even know if they're alive."
As the donation boxes fill, he plans to ship their contents to the Philippines. He hopes to arrange distribution with the Red Cross, but the shipments, which will go by freighter, will take 55 days to reach the islands.
It is because food and clothing are so hard to deliver quickly that the Filipino-American Association has decided not to attempt such a collection, Rivera said.
"Baggage takes time. Our feeling is that the best help would be financial," said Rivera, who also serves on the board of the nonprofit Federation of Filipino American Associations, based in Washington.
As the Philadelphia association collects funds, it will send them to the national federation, to be transferred to the Philippine Disaster and Recovery Foundation, he said.
Donations to typhoon relief can be made via Paypal at the national federation's website at www.faapi.org. Telephone inquiries about donations may be directed to Rivera at 610-888-6905.
"We think that will be even more direct than Red Cross," Rivera said. His organization does not expect to collect food or clothing for shipment.
David says both approaches have value.
"Fifty-five days from now people will still be needing help," he said. "I think they will be needing help forever."
Typhoon Haiyan arrived just three weeks after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck the same central region of the Philippines, killing 150 people and destroying 50,000 homes.
An estimated 600,000 people have been displaced by Friday's storm, and 9.8 million people have been affected, according the international relief agency CARE.
United Nations relief workers reported that their efforts were being hindered because bridges, roads, and airports have been destroyed, and that some survivors were without water, food or medicine.