Even though he had just finished filling two 40-foot containers of medical supplies destined for the Philippines, Dr. Bernard Quebral knew the destruction caused by the supertyphoon that lashed the island nation this weekend meant he needed to do more.
By Sunday morning, the Health Partners physician was rallying support in the local Filipino community to send another container — this one to be filled with food, clothing, blankets and other emergency goods to aid victims of the storm.
“It’s just the worst devastation that you can imagine,’’ said Lita Malicsi, who heads an umbrella group of local Filipino organizations that serve the 1,500 Twin Cities residents of Filipino descent.
Malicsi, who also works as a counselor to Asian students at Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis, said Quebral’s container program is just one of many local initiatives in the works for short-term and long-term assistance to people of the Philippines.
She said the plans to organize disaster relief were taking shape even while many in the Twin Cities searched for information about loved ones in their homeland, where some estimates predict the storm’s death toll could top 10,000.
Malicsi said most of the early aid talks have centered around the fastest and most efficient methods of delivering assistance to Tacloban and other disaster-striken areas.
She said most Filipinos in Minnesota are Catholic, but community leaders also are trying to organize an ecumenical worship service to pray for victims of the typhoon.
Quebral said he has started to raise the $10,000 to $12,000 necessary to ship a container of goods by rail to Seattle, and from there by ocean freighter to the Philippines.
The earliest the shipment could arrive is Dec. 15, he said, but the goods still will be in critical demand. Malicsi said donations for the container program can be dropped off at the Philippine Center of Minnesota in Maplewood.
Quebral has been heading biannual medical missions to the Philippines from the Twin Cities for more than 10 years.
He spent much of this fall organizing the shipment of two containers filled with medical supplies for his group’s next trip, which is scheduled to depart in late January, and this weekend attended a black-tie fundraiser for the missions. He said the calamity won’t alter the timing of that trip, but said the delegation of 75 doctors, nurses, dentists and other volunteers will have to intensify their work and prepare to treat more infections.
Quebral said the medical mission already is trying to beef up its finances so that it can buy more medicine, food and other supplies once it lands on Samar Island, one of the areas pounded by the typhoon.
The congressman of northern Samar is Emil Ong, the father of Maplewood dentist David Ong. The congressman was on a visit to Minnesota when the typhoon hit and he will be directly involved in steering some of the disaster aid from the Twin Cities to areas of need, David Ong said.
“Right now we are still figuring it out,’’ said Ong, president of the Fil-Minnesotan Association.
Part of the relief effort from the Twin Cities will send money and other support directly to family members of Twin Cities residents who were devastated by the typhoon, Ong said. Local community members spent the weekend networking with each other and the Fil-Minnesotan Association in attempts to contact friends and relatives in damaged areas, he said.
Tony Kennedy • 612-673-4213