Prayers, concerns as Typhoon Haiyan slams Philippines

A resident walks past high waves pounding the

A resident walks past high waves pounding the sea wall amidst strong winds as Typhoon Haiyan hit the city of Legaspi, Albay province, south of Manila. One of the most intense typhoons on record whipped the Philippines, terrifying millions as monster winds tore roofs off buildings and giant waves washed away flimsy homes. (Nov. 8, 2013) (Credit: Getty Images)

As Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines, Long Islanders with ties to the island country frantically tried to contact family members and exchanged prayers.

"I tried calling early this morning to get in touch with them and -- nothing. There is no way to reach them. It is really bad," Dr. Edgar Lerias, of Dix Hills, said Friday.

The physician has a younger brother and older sister who live in Cebu and Bohol, among the places said to be directly impacted by Friday's storm.

Lerias said he and his Philippines-focused medical relief organization, Home-Reach Foundation, recently sent tents and other supplies to the region after it was ravaged by an earthquake.

"I can't imagine how people living in tents could survive this storm," he said.

With just a trickle of news coming out of towns and provinces in the Category 4 typhoon's path, many feared mass casualties but were trying to remain optimistic.

"There were so many phone calls today from people who cannot communicate with their loved ones in those provinces," said Philippine Consul General Mario De Leon, based in Manhattan.

"The reports are coming very slowly," he said. "We have even been having trouble getting in touch with Manila. All telecommunication is down, and especially in some of the most remote provinces, we just don't know the extent of the damages or the fatalities at this point."

Zaida Garcia, 38, of Seaford, said she "felt helpless."

"It's hard to watch even though you know that your immediate family is OK," said Garcia, who was dining and shopping at Guiradelco, a Filipino restaurant and grocery in Westbury. "You don't know where to begin or who to help."

Nearly 750,000 people were forced to flee their homes as Haiyan made landfall with sustained winds of 147 mph and gusts up to 170 mph.

"Normally, we'd worry about the flooding and the wind, but this is a typhoon that will just wipe out entire towns," said Rose McCoyd, 40, a nurse from Garden City who emigrated from Pampanga in the Central Luzon region in 2004.

McCoyd was having lunch with her mother and three young sons at Manila Hut, a Filipino restaurant in Hempstead.

McCoyd's hometown is north of the storm, which ravaged mostly central areas. Still, she connected with her sister to make sure everyone was out of harm's way. Prayers were exchanged via email.

"When something like this happens in the Philippines, we all come together," she said.

With Gary Dymski

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