Members of Israel’s Filipino community are desperate to reach family and friends after one of the worst typhoons in recorded history hit the archipelago nation. Thousands of Filipinos work in Israel, many as home health aides.
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“I don’t know what’s happening with my family,” said Emma Fernanda, who lives in Tel Aviv. “I’m very worried. Not only is my husband there, so are my mother-in-law, sister-in-law and her children. I tried to reach them and can’t. The telephone lines are cut and there's no electricity.”
Fernanda, 41, has been living in Israel for 18 years, and for the past few days she has been focusing on her computer.
“I watch the news from the Philippines. Maybe they’ll wave and say ‘we’re okay, don’t worry,’" Fernanda said. "I spoke with my husband Thursday evening. He told me a storm was expected and that he was going to rest and bring in things from outside the house. On Friday morning I tried to reach him on Skype and Facebook and by phone, but couldn’t. It has been three days and I have no news.”
Fernanda’s son, an eighth-grader, is on a school trip but is keeping up with events. Her husband’s sister, who lives in Arad, has also been trying to contact her family. “She’s worried and crying all the time,” Fernanda said.
In contrast, Melinda Casira, 32, who has been living in Israel for six years, says she's relieved. Although she hasn’t been able to reach her family, who live in the disaster zone, a cousin in Manila has texted her that all is well.
“He says the house was damaged; I don’t know how he knows that," said Casira, who lives in Holon. "Beyond that I don’t know what’s happening. My parents and seven brothers and sisters are there. I tried to reach them a few times but couldn't.”
The Foreign Ministry has not been able to communicate with four Israelis who are currently in the Philippines. The ministry says it knows of no Israelis who were injured in the typhoon, but that many phone lines and Internet connections are down, so the options for reaching anyone are limited.
Meanwhile, a Foreign Ministry and Home Front Command unit has set out for the Philippines to help in the relief efforts, focusing on medical assistance.