Typhoon Haiyan: Family fears for loved ones

Belinda and  Stephen Matthews. Picture: Greg Macvean

Belinda and Stephen Matthews. Picture: Greg Macvean

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A FAMILY have spoken of their frantic efforts to trace loved ones caught up in a killer storm in the Philippines.

Filipino Belinda Matthews, 49, has not heard from her relatives since one of the world’s most powerful storms ripped through the islands – leaving the death toll estimated at 10,000 in the city of Tacloban alone.

More than four million people have been affected by the disaster, which was caused by winds reaching speeds of up to 235mph.

Belinda, who works as a carer and lives with her husband Stephen in Pennywell, has been unable to reach her brother Baltazar Padual on the island of Burak Salcedo by telephone.

The tiny village in which they live is home to less than 1000 people but is understood to have taken the full force of the super typhoon.

She said: “I’m really worried – we’ve not heard anything.

“There’s nothing about the villages on the news and I have a brother, aunties, uncles and nieces out there.

“I was speaking to them on Thursday and they said that the wind was already starting to pick up – I said be careful because this was going to be a really big typhoon. The phone is dead now, I just want to know what’s happened.”

The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) has sent rescue teams to the areas affected and has set up a person-finder for people fearful for their loved ones.

Many of the dead in the country’s deadliest storm are thought to have drowned in 20ft high storm waves resembling a tsunami, which swept away homes, schools and other buildings on Friday.

The winds also caused landslides, burying people under rubble and knocking out power and communications.

Belinda, who moved to the Capital 20 years ago, has made desperate phone calls to the Foreign Office and The Philippine Embassy in London for news.

She said: “It’s possible that my family may have evacuated, but I just don’t know. I’m hoping that I will find them in a shelter somewhere and that they will all be OK and together in once place.

“They might be thirsty and hungry but hopefully they’re alright.”

Edinburgh-based charity Mercy Corps has deployed emergency responders to the affected area.

Stephen, 53, a labourer, said: “We’re getting information about Tacloban, but nothing about the smaller places. The people in Belinda’s village would have felt the full brunt of it – we’re just so frustrated.”

The United Nations has said the devastation is comparable to the 2004 Indian Ocean ­tsunami.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister of State Hugo Swire said: “Our thoughts are also with Filipinos resident in the UK who will be worried about friends and family back in the Philippines.”