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Without phones, Typhoon Haiyan victims turn to TV cameras to tell worst of news

By Kevin Voigt, CNN
updated 1:48 AM EST, Tue November 12, 2013
A mother carries her baby through the debris of destroyed houses in Tacloban, Leyte province, Philippines on Wednesday, November 27, 2013 Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms in recorded history, has devastated parts of the Philippines and killed thousands of people. A mother carries her baby through the debris of destroyed houses in Tacloban, Leyte province, Philippines on Wednesday, November 27, 2013 Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest storms in recorded history, has devastated parts of the Philippines and killed thousands of people.
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Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
Children among Typhoon Haiyan victims
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Survivor to family abroad: "Josie is gone. Please forgive me, I couldn't save her"
  • More than 10 million Filipinos live and work in 217 countries around the world
  • Poor communications has left many wondering the fate of their loved ones
  • Most Philippines expatriates work in the U.S., followed by Saudi Arabia and Canada

(CNN) -- On Leyte Island, one of the hardest hit areas by Typhoon Haiyan, a man is asked by a television crew if he has a message for relatives living abroad.

"I'm just letting you know, Josie is gone. Please forgive me, I couldn't save her, because we all got separated from each other when the strong waves hit," said the man, tears rolling down his face as he spoke to CNN affiliate ABS-CBN about his daughter's death. "We got separated.

"I couldn't even hold on to my child ... Josie is on the corner. Her body has been there three days," he tells the camera.

With spotty communications in the wake of one of the largest storms in history, some survivors are reduced to turning to television cameras to tell far-flung family members the worst of news.

To the mother of my kids, who's currently living in Virginia, I know that you'll watch this: Justin and Ella are gone
Typhoon survivor on Leyte Island
Filipino expats desperate for news
Survivors tell stories of terrible loss
iReporter: Philippines situation is grim

"To the mother of my kids, who's currently living in Virginia, I know that you'll watch this: Justin and Ella are gone," another unidentified man tells ABS-CBN. "They are both dead."

The number of Filipinos living abroad -- either permanently or as contracted workers -- was estimated at 10.5 million in 2011, according to the Commission on Filipinos Overseas. The diaspora has Filipinos working in 217 countries around the world, but most work in the United States (3.4 million), followed by Saudi Arabia (1.6 million) and Canada (about 850,000), according to the commission.

That has left family members abroad in a desperate search for news of loved ones in the storm's path. In the United Arab Emirates, Naicy Yu Bono is gripped with pain and fear after the storm ravaged her hometown of Tacloban. Among the family members missing are her mother and two daughters, 8-year-old Rheinzi and 22-year-old Reanne.

"My last communication with my eldest (daughter) was Friday 1 a.m.," she told CNN's Leone Lakhani. "She sent me a Whatsapp (text message). She said, 'Mummy I'm so scared because the wind is so strong.'"

Bono has been in the UAE -- the fourth largest home of Filipinos expatriates with about 680,000 migrant workers -- for the past six months working to send cash back to her family at home. Now she is at the Philippine embassy preparing to leave the country. "I'm going to find my daughters," she said.

Some relatives abroad have had better luck. From London, iReporter David Armstrong puts out an SOS trying to get in contact with his wife, Ruby, in Ormoc City. Fortunately, he was able to re-establish contact with his wife, but the suffering of his family and other survivors is profound, he said. Four of six homes owned by her family are damaged.

"They have all suffered from upset stomachs as they have had to drink unsuitable water. Their city has had 90% of its buildings damaged, including hospitals, banks and supermarkets," he said. "They are unable to use any ATM to withdraw money to buy any food from the very few street sellers who are selling food. They have had no relief aid whatsoever."

While most of the media coverage has focused on Tacloban -- the largest city hardest hit by the storm -- there are many more towns and cities which have sustained substantial damage, Armstrong notes. He is attempting to travel to Ormoc to get supplies to his family.

He said his wife told him that "they have been told by the electric company that they will be without electricity until January as the typhoon has brought down most of the power lines on the island," he said.

"She also told me there is only one supermarket open in the whole city and it's running out of food. There is only one pharmacy open in the whole city but they have very few medicines left and people have had to queue for hours to get any."

In Tacloban, iReporter Leo Udtohan took his camera along the roads of this city of more than 200,000 people, showing dead bodies wrapped in plastic lying along the street.

"Other dead bodies were washed ashore near the Tacloban fish port," he reports. "In some areas, the dead are being buried in mass graves ... I saw some people bury the dead near the highway."

"There's no clean water, no electricity and very little food," he said. "The communication is still very limited in many areas in southern Leyte, so there is real difficulty if you're asking for some updates on what happened to families or relatives."

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