People from the Philippines living in Germany are waiting to hear from relatives living in the typhoon zone. Filipinos in Bonn plan to collect clothes and to put on a concert to help the people back home.
Puri Dacuba buries her face in her hands. "So much suffering, so many people affected," she says and shakes her head. Her friend Linda Aytin has just given her the latest information from the Philippines. Typhoon Haiyan has destroyed the homes of more than 600.000 people. Puri Dacuba is visibly shocked, and, Mina Krämer, sitting next to her, finds it hard to hold back her tears.
The three women are members of the Filipino community in Bonn. Once a week they come from the surrounding towns and meet for services at Saint Winfred's church. They're sitting with Father Rudolf Holzgartner in the parish house and try to console each other. All three have relatives and friends in the Philippines. They live on the islands of Leyte and Samar, where Typhoon Haiyan hit the hardest.
"The last few days have been very difficult for us," said Linda Aytin. She's spent most of the time in front of the television hoping to catch sight of her friends. She cannot contact them by phone and Facebook posts have been unanswered. She hopes to get some information from the media.
The mobile phone network collapsed
But the latest news has not offered much hope: villages have been destroyed, roads have been flooded and the number of victims is constantly rising. Aytin has carefully written down the numbers on a piece of paper. So far, 1,764 dead bodies have been identified in Leyte. The authorities fear that the number of victims could be as high as 10,000, and the number keeps rising.
"I wake up in the middle of the night and can't sleep for worry," says Puri Dacuba. While her friends talk, she checks her mobile phone, but there is no text message. She had her last contact with her friends on Leyte four days ago. They don't have any fixed lines in their town, so they rely on mobiles, but Haiyan has destroyed the mobile phone network.
Clothing and concert
But the three women aren't prepared to let themselves be paralyzed by their worry, and they talk about how they can help. During last Sunday's service St Wilfred's church spontaneously started a collection which raised more than 500 euros ($672). Together with Father Holzgartner, the three women are now planning a collection of clothing and a charity concert.
But it is obvious to them that their help will come too late for many people in the Philippines. "The world has to react immediately," says Father Holzgartner. "The people need food and drinking water above all else."
He spent 36 years in the Philippines as a missionary. Most of the time he was teaching at the Divine Word College of San Jose in West Mindoro. He also lived through typhoons and floods, but not that of this size. "After a typhoon with more than 300 kilometers per hour [186 mph] nothing is left," he says.
Phone call to Cebu via Skype
Roland Strux, project manager with the aid organization Don Bosco Mondo, is thinking the same. He's sitting next door in his office in front of his computer. He has Skype contact with the Salesian brothers of Don Bosco in Cebu where they run a youth center. They were spared by the typhoon, but they too haven't been able to make contact with their fellow monks in the disaster area - for example, in Borongan, which is just 170 kilometers north-east of the destroyed city of Tacloban.
When Strux is not sitting in front of his computer, he is on the phone. For hours, people and associations have been phoning him to donate money. "The sympathy in Germany is really great," says Strux. His organization has already sent 20,000 euros to the Philippines.
Puri Dacuba, Mina Krämer and Linda Aytin are worried that the money may not reach the population. They all believe that their government in the Philippines is corrupt.
"I've experienced it myself," says Mina Krämer. In 1991 when the Pinatobu volcano erupted, she was on the northern island of Luzon where she'd gone to bury her father. The entire village was evacuated and assistance was promised. "But we never saw any money," says Krämer bitterly.
That's why they are only raising money through church organizations. "They have their networks on the ground and know how to reach the people in need," says Linda Aytin.
The women sit talking for several hours but now they want to go back and watch the TV news. Before they go to their cars, they light a candle in the church. "We just have to have faith," says Krämer. "That's all we have left."