Americans are no stranger to disaster. We've seen our share of hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and floods. We've seen our neighbors lose loved ones or their homes, and we have witnessed the painful rebuilding process. But who among us was not aghast as images of flattened villages and homeless survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan began pouring into the 24/7 news cycle?
A U.S. military commander compared the scene to the aftermath of a 50-mile-wide tornado, leaving little untouched in its path. Even before the storm hit, there was no doubt as to the potential for catastrophic damage.
Weather forecasters say that Haiyan hit the Philippines with sustained winds of 195 mph and gusts to as high as 275 mph.
Initial reports seemed to accept the Philippine government's estimates that advance preparation and evacuations would keep the death toll low. We now know those estimates were very, very wrong.
As many as 10,000 people — many of them drowned by storm surges that reached 20 feet or higher — could be counted among the dead by the time recovery efforts are over, some officials say. By Tuesday they had counted 1,774 bodies, according to CNN, and more were expected as rescuers gain access to more areas and begin digging out the rubble.
Some areas are still inaccessible to rescuers, leaving residents in those communities to fend for themselves as they search for food, potable water and medical supplies.
The United Nations estimates that 673,000 people have been displaced in a nation where more than 40 percent of the population lives on $2 a day or less. Photos leave no doubt as to the level of destruction in the hardest-hit areas.
Support is pouring in from governments around the globe and from individuals, Americans included, who want to do what they can to help. But already we are hearing stories of scams, looting and of medical supplies not reaching victims. For that reason, it's best to give to a charity you know and trust. You may also research a charity's record via Guidestar.com, charitynavigator.org and other sources. There are also groups that got an early start providing assistance — well-known names such as the American Red Cross, UNICEF, CARE International andseveral well-known religiously affiliated groups. As always, relief groups ask that donations be in the form of money (preferably checks or credit card payments that can be accounted for) rather than clothing or other material items.
Disaster knows no national or ethnic boundaries. People in need are people in need, and the people of the Philippines need all the help they can get. Recovery will be a long, slow process, but every donation — no matter how small — will make a difference to someone.
REPRINTED FROM THE NEW BERN SUN JOURNAL