Gaston Co. family desperate to contact relatives in the Philippines

by: Eric Philips Updated:

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GASTON COUNTY, N.C. - Bodies are washing up on beaches, kids have been ripped from their parent's arms and nearly every building has damage on Saturday night in the city hit hardest by Super Typhoon Haiyan.

The U.S. is on standby Saturday night to help the hundreds of thousands of victims who had their lives turned upside down by the monster of a storm.

Right now at least 151 people have been confirmed dead, but the real toll is estimated to be more than 1,200. The Red Cross expects to have more precise numbers Sunday.

On Saturday Night, Channel 9 checked back with one Gaston County family desperate to hear from their loved ones.

"I am praying and I'm hoping they're alive that's all I want, that they're alive," said Erlenie Dawson.

She is on pins and needles on Saturday night, waiting and wondering how her loved ones in the Philippines are doing.

They live in Dagami Letye, about 20 miles away from the storm's worst wrath in Tacloban City.

Dawson was born and raised in the Philippines and has seen strong storms there before, but super typhoon hayain <cap>, with wind gusts of up to 235 mph, was different.

International relief organization Samaritan's Purse, based in Boone, already has a team on the ground in the Philippines and more teams are on the way.

"Sourcing and purchasing emergency food supplies, as well as hygiene items and plastic sheeting blankets, things like that,' said Samaritan's Purse director Barry Hall.

This is the second time the Philippines have been hit hard. Just last month an earthquake there left 340,000 homeless.

"Many of those were living in tents, so as the storm was approaching of course the government did their best to get those people relocated into some place safe but we are talking about islands here, so there's only so many places that people can go," said Hall.

In Gastonia, Dawson who cannot Skype or have phone conversations with her family, is encouraging her young daughters to express how they feel about the tragedy by drawing posters.

"It's so heartbreaking I just want to see them," she said.

The typhoon is now headed for Vietnam, where authorities in four central provinces have begun evacuating more than half a million people.

The typhoon is forecast to make landfall in Vietnam early Sunday morning and move northwest.

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