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Watertown woman monitors Typhoon Haiyan rescue efforts

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Watertown residents with connections to the Philippines are watching with concern the relief efforts in that disaster-struck nation.

Vina A. Bonner, Watertown, was born in Manila, but has not returned to the islands since 1987.

“It’s still my home. I know I haven’t been there since 1987, but it’s still my home,” said Mrs. Bonner, who was stationed at Fort Drum before leaving active duty in 2011. She now serves with an Army National Guard unit out of Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, Syracuse.

Relief efforts slowly have begun along the eastern Philippine coast, which was struck by Typhoon Haiyan on Friday, but aid has not reached many affected areas due to the logistical challenges of responding to a disaster that has left an estimated 10,000 people dead and more than 600,000 displaced, according to wire reports.

Mrs. Bonner said she has kept in touch with her extended family members in the days following the typhoon, but had not heard about a large contingent of them until Monday night.

Many of her relatives are staying in a school where she received her elementary education in the city of Tanauan, just south of Tacloban, where the storm wreaked untold devastation.

Mrs. Bonner said that rescue efforts have not reached her family members yet, that they have no food or water and that decomposing bodies throughout the city are filling the air with horrible smells.

Mrs. Bonner, who assisted with relief efforts following Hurricane Sandy, said that she was frustrated with the slow response from government authorities in the islands and that the disaster seemed closer because of her personal connection with the area.

“It’s hard to watch the news,” she said. “You know these things are happening but it’s usually outside your comfort zone. Now it’s happening to my country and it’s real to me.”

Lea B. Shockley, president of the Filipino-American Association of Northern New York, said she has heard from many members whose families have been affected.

Communication with relatives in the Philippines has been difficult, she said. News is the primary source of information gathering.

The association has as many as 500 active members, according to Mrs. Shockley. It is planning to raise funds for the relief effort.

Mrs. Shockley referred those who want to send aid to the Philippines to the group’s Facebook page at http://wdt.me/ee8orM.

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