Local man's family still in Philippines after typhoon - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Local man's family still in Philippines after typhoon

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PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) - According to ABC, the death toll from Super Typhoon Haiyan has reached more than 900.

However, authorities fear it could climb to 10,000 or more.

Jonesboro resident Jayson Mirafuentes grew up in the Philippines and his entire family still lives there. 

"When I heard typhoon, my heart just sunk and I knew something bad was going to happen," Mirafuentes said.

His family and friends are okay. Mirafuentes said they live in the northern part of the country so they missed the worst of the storm.

"Pretty scary because I still have memories of those type of storms and you're still talking about winds constantly over 100 mph," Mirafuentes said. "Their biggest challenge now is flooding."

However, many more were not so lucky. The central part, especially the city of Tacloban, was hit the hardest, the equivalent of a Category 5 hurricane.

Mirafuentes said typhoons are a part of life in the Philippines, but never any like this.

"A typhoon is bad enough, but when you start talking super, Category-5 level, it's really unheard of," Mirafuentes said. "Imagine waking up and saying, 'Where's everything at?' That's how intense and serious this thing is."

Mirafuentes said Typhoon Haiyan consumed about 80 percent of Tacloban. 

"Most homes in the Philippines will fit in most people's garages here in the United States. There's some areas where they're actually huts. Some people's houses are made of things that we would normally throw away. Cardboard or very weak materials that's been pieced together," Mirafuentes said.

Mirafuentes said that's why the estimated death toll is so high.

"Unfortunately, I think that's low when you start talking those estimates because, when they start sifting through the rubble, they'll find a lot more," Mirafuentes said. "All you can do is pray at that time and survive this."

For those that did survive, Mirafuentes said the recovery process is the most difficult part.

"They have no home to go to and they have nobody to turn to because everybody's in the same boat. They're struggling to find food, clean water and just clothing. The basic necessities we take for granted," Mirafuentes said.  

Mirafuentes estimates it will be like this for months. 

"You can't help but count your blessings, now that I've experienced the American life and the American way we have here," Mirafuentes said.

However, Mirafuentes said his family, friends and the rest of the Filipino people are holding their heads high. 

"It's such a beautiful spirit that they have. They're clinging on to even that smallest hope, 'Hey, it's gonna get better. We survived this now and we're gonna keep on moving forward.'"

To help Typhoon Haiyan victims move forward, Mirafuentes said they desperately need donations, but most of all, prayers.

To help, visit the American Red Cross website, UNICEF website and the World Food Program USA website

Copyright 2013 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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