By Dan Wing and Ileana Diaz
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Since opening up a 24-hour call center in Philadelphia to help people looking for friends and family in the Philippines on Saturday, the local chapter of the Red Cross says more than 300 calls have come in.
Officials say that a majority of the calls have come from people across the country, with a couple dozen of them coming from people living in the Philadelphia area. Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes is CEO of the Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania, and she says the group will help them locate a loved one, or put them in touch with the American State Department to help start the process
“Unfortunately, it’s not always quick. But it is a service that will help them to identify where their loved ones are at this time,” Hughes said.
“My greatest fear, they probably didn’t make it,” Mercy Gorillo said.
Gorillo used to lived in the Philippines with her two aunts. This is a photo of them with Mercy’s brother. She found out he’s safe, but her aunts are both still missing.
“My husband really didn’t know what to do with me for the first 48 hours because I would just burst into tears all of a sudden,” she said.
Mercy holds back tears as she shows us a photo of what her aunt’s home used to look like. It’s in one of the towns hardest hit by the super typhoon.
“There’s no second floor and the water was really high,” she said.
This is what the area looks like after the typhoon — completely gone — with few signs of life and leaving little hope for loved ones.
“Keep calling people, keep calling friends if they’ve heard of anything,” Mercy said.
Mercy tells us she’s been glued to the TV and her phone hoping she hears anything. Her family in the Philippines have tried to go out to find her aunts, but they’ve run into challenges.
“They were not able to pass because of the smell of dead bodies,” she said.
A devastating scene that’s hard for anyone to take in and one that is testing the faith of Filipino families like the Gorillos who have no choice but to sit and wait.
“I don’t know how to describe this massive destruction right now. All we can do is to be hopeful and prayerful,” she said.
Mercy does share some good news tonight. She tells Eyewitness News her husband’s family was found, they are all accounted for and are safe.
Hughes also encourages people to visit the Red Cross’ website to make monetary donations to help with ground support efforts in the Philippines. You can also make contributions by mailing a check. If you do, make sure it is clearly labeled with “Philippine Typhoon” in memo section of the check.
The call center remains open 24/7. The number is 215-299-4889 locally, and 800-RED-CROSS elsewhere.