Vermonters looking for ways to help Filipinos facing devastation from a major typhoon can do so with their wallets.
As many as 11 million people across 40 provinces in the Philippines have been affected by Super Typhoon Haiyan, with the death toll expected to surpass 10,000 people.
Doug Bishop, director of communications and external relations for the Vermont & The New Hampshire Upper Valley office of the American Red Cross, said they are accepting financial donations but not material goods.
Bishop said the financial donations would benefit the Filipino response but the organization didn’t have the ability to deliver other donations to the Philippines in a timely manner due to the logistics of shipping overseas.
Instead, the Red Cross will work with partners already in action to turn financial donations into on-the-ground assets including water, blankets, medicine and food among other necessities.
“The financial resource is what is needed,” Bishop said. “Water, blankets … where there’s a need we’ll look to fill it.”
People can donate online at www.redcross.org or call (800)-RED-CROSS.
In Washington, Sen. Patrick Leahy chairs the subcommittee responsible for earmarking funds for disaster relief aid overseas as well as other types of foreign humanitarian and relief aid.
The Subcommittee on the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs falls under the Senate Appropriations Committee, on which Leahy is a senior member.
The United States approved an initial commitment of $20 million, but that’s expected to just be a starting point.
“The United States has a long history of helping people in need when disaster strikes, and we have a long and close relationship with the Philippines and its people,” Leahy said in a statement. “I’m heartened by the administration’s prompt response, but we know that the need for relief from a disaster on this scale will continue to grow.”
Leahy’s spokesman, David Carle, said Leahy has always pushed funding priorities on the subcommittee as he believes funding international humanitarian disaster relief is an area the United States should be very visibly involved in.
The Red Cross is already on the ground in the Philippines with 1,000 staff on-site and an estimated 500,000 active volunteers working in the relief effort.
Bishop said big disasters tend to motivate people to give.
“We often see a real influx when we see an international disaster,” Bishop said. “People see us as a trusted organization that they know engages in this relief effort.”
Bishop warned that anyone who wants to give should know who they are giving to. If they don’t choose the Red Cross, he advised that people just be sure they are dealing with a reputable organization.
“If people have other organizations they choose to give through, we ask them to make sure they are confident that the funds are going to go where they ask them to go.”
The Red Cross is sending telecommunications and disaster assessment teams and other experts from the United States and around the globe to the Philippines.
The American Red Cross is also working to reconnect families separated by the typhoon and has activated its family tracing services.
Anyone who might be looking for a missing family member in the Philippines should contact the local Red Cross chapter but should also remember most phone lines are down in the disaster area.
The typhoon, which was named Yolanda by Phillipine authorities, has most significantly affected the city of Tacloban, a city of 220,000 people that was inundated by a wall of water nearly 10 feet high.
Tacloban is near Red Beach on Leyte Island where Gen. Douglas MacArthur waded ashore during World War II to fulfill his famous promise “to return” to liberate the Phillipines during World War II.
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