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Wendy Reuer, Published November 14 2013

Keeping hope: Fargo resident from Philippines hasn't heard from family since typhoon

FARGO – The last time Angel Hopper spoke to her family in the city of Basey, Philippines, Typhoon Haiyan was barreling down on the coastal community of about 50,000.

Hopper heard her sister screaming “something about the roof coming off,” and then the line went dead.

Since the night of Nov. 7, 22-year-old Hopper, who moved to Fargo in March, has not heard from her family of 10, which includes her parents, siblings and 1-month old niece.

With the exception of an aunt in California, Hopper has no other family living in the U.S.

“I’m waiting by my phone,” Hopper said. “There is no one telling me about them.”

Like many other Filipino Americans in the metro area who have family or friends in the area, Hopper has been glued to her phone, computer and the news. They are waiting with hope, but fearing the worst in the aftermath of what has been called one of the strongest tropical storms ever recorded.

News about survivors and exact death tolls has been slow after last week’s storm ripped out communication lines and devastated entire cities. Many areas have been difficult for rescue crews to reach with roads reduced to rubble.

Early reports and images of the destruction have come from the city of Tacloban in the Leyte province, which is about 15 miles west of Basey in the province of Samar. Early estimates feared 10,000 people were killed.

By Thursday, Filipino officials estimated the death toll was about 2,000.

“I hope they are all safe,” Hopper said. “I’m hoping because I have no idea about anything.”

Organizations are stepping in to help, including the Fargo-based Fil-AMMinDak Association.

About 300 families from North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota are a part of the group for Filipino Americans, said Dr. Augusto Alonto, vice president of Fil-AMMinDak.

“I’m sure most of the families here have family and friends that have been affected,” he said.

Alonto estimated as many as half of the Fil-AMMinDak members have family or friends who were in the path of the typhoon.

As quickly as the storm hit the islands last week, Fil-AMMinDak members began exploring how they could help bring some relief to the ravaged area. Officials said delivery of supplies is difficult due to the destruction, so monetary relief is best at this time.

To help, Fil-AMMinDak will host a spaghetti brunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Moorhead’s Hjemkomst Center. All proceeds will be donated to the Filipino Red Cross.

Alonto said Fil-AMMinDak members have been checking in on those who, like Hopper, are still waiting for word on their loved ones in the southern areas.

“It’s a very close-knit community here. We basically know everyone,” Alonto said.

Bishop John Folda of the Fargo Diocese has also asked local church leaders to encourage parishioners to contribute to the Typhoon Haiyan Disaster Relief fund sponsored by Catholic Relief Services.

“The people of the Philippines need our help,” Folda said in a news release. “We should do all we can to bring immediate relief and recovery to individuals and communities broken by this devastating storm.

Collections will be taken on Nov. 23 and 24 in area Catholic churches to help those affected by the storm.

If you go

What: Fil-AMMinDak Association Spaghetti Brunch for Typhoon Haiyan

When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday

Where: Hjemkomst Center, 202 1st Ave. N., Moorhead

Info: All proceeds from the brunch will be donated to the Philippines Red Cross

For more information: www.facebook.com/events/1436284516592877/?ref=22

How to help: via Philippine Red Cross Donation at http://ushare.redcross.orgph

Select the Super Typhoon Yolanda Campaign

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530