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Toronto’s Filipino community thankful for aid to typhoon victims

Residents return to their houses after leaving an evacuation site after Super Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban, Leyte, on Nov. 9, 2013. AFP/Getty Images/Noel Celis

Toronto’s Filipino community is expressing gratitude for the outpouring of donations after a typhoon devastated their homeland.

Dozens of volunteers gathered at the Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic parish on Monday to help sort food and clothing donated by people around the GTA.

“It was just so overwhelming because people were coming in, bringing these donations for everybody. It’s very touching,” one volunteer told CityNews.

“The support is really heartwarming,” said another volunteer. “People from Oshawa, Brampton, Etobicoke… people just coming in to help out and bring donations.”

The Archdiocese of Toronto is accepting financial contributions for humanitarian relief efforts through its network of parishes across the city as well as online at www. archtoronto.org.

“We offer our prayers as well as practical assistance to the people of the Philippines at this time,” Cardinal Thomas Collins said in a release. “As victims in the Philippines struggle to recover from the devastation of the storm, we recognize that thousands of people in our local community are desperately awaiting word about the well-being of friends and family.”

Sun Life Financial also announced Monday that it will contribute $100,000 to support Red Cross relief efforts.

This comes one day after Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Canada will provide as much as $5 million to support humanitarian organizations helping typhoon victims.

Canada’s Disaster Assistance Response Team is also on its way to the Philippines to help the devastated island nation deal with the daunting aftermath of last week’s catastrophic typhoon.

A Canadian Forces C-17 from CFB Trenton is en route to the Southeast Asian archipelago, carrying between 35 and 50 members of the team and their gear, Baird told a news conference Monday.

The full complement of the rapid-response team, known as DART, comprises 200 Canadian Forces personnel and was last deployed following the earthquake that devastated Haiti in January 2010.

“The first plane will leave within hours and it will bring personnel and equipment,” Baird said in the House of Commons foyer.

“Obviously, due to the scale and the scope (of the disaster), we will be working with our Filipino counterparts to determine what else is required, how many additional resources. Obviously we’ll do all we can.”

Given the cost of shipping supplies, the Red Cross said cash was the best way for Canadians to help because money would allow the Philippines Red Cross to identify needed supplies and source them more cheaply.

The relief agency had already raised $1.2 million in donations as of noon Monday, said spokesman Guy LePage.

“People are being very generous,” said LePage, who noted the true scope of the disaster has yet to emerge.

“This is going to be a long-term recovery program.”

A Global Medic team left Toronto Sunday morning for the Philippines with supplies and water purification units.

“We’ll get down on the ground and start purifying water and providing aid to those who need it right away,” Matt Capobianco, manager of emergency programs for Global Medic told CityNews.

Many people across Canada continue to frantically try to contact friends and loved ones missing in what appears to be the country’s deadliest storm yet.

Cell phone networks were restored in Tacloban, the hardest hit area of the Philippines, on Monday according to the country’s social welfare department.

The true scale of devastation wrought Friday by typhoon Haiyan has yet to emerge, but some estimates suggest the death toll could reach 10,000, with hundreds of thousands badly affected.

Canadians who want to donate through the Red Cross can do so via redcross.ca and designate typhoon Haiyan. They can also donate $5 by texting redcross at 30333.

Canadians needing urgent consular help following Typhoon Haiyan can email sos@international.gc.ca or call collect 613-996-8885.

The federal government has set up phone numbers for Canadians looking for information on relatives and friends who may have been caught in the affected areas. They are 1-800-387-3124 or 613-996-8885.

With files from The Canadian Press