GRAVE fears are held for two Queensland families missing in the Philippines since super Typhoon Haiyan cut a devastating path through the region last week, killing thousands.
The Australian government has pledged more than $10 million to assist rescue efforts and says it stands ready to lend military assistance to the region if asked.
Typhoon Haiyan hit the eastern Philippines at 235km/h on Friday, heavily damaging at least six of the archipelago’s more than 7000 islands, with Leyte, Samar and the northern part of Cebu bearing the brunt of the storm.
Queensland couples Errol and Margie Mitchell and Chris and Maricel Hesselberg were staying together 18km from perhaps the hardest hit city, Tacloban, where the typhoon left as many as 10,000 people dead.
Mr Hesselberg, 44, had left Bundaberg two weeks ago to visit his seven-month pregnant wife Maricel in Alang Alang.
His father, Michael last heard from his son on Thursday and is fearing the worst.
“I’m just blocking it out, I’m trying not to watch the news,” Michael told AAP.
“I’m preparing myself in my own quiet way. I hope the house still exists, it’s just in the lap of the gods.”
The couple’s newly built home is in a low-lying area and in the middle of a river plain and the family is worried that even if it survived the 275km/h wind gusts, it could not have survived the surging water.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) have so far confirmed one Australian casualty – Sydney man and former priest Kevin Lee.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Monday pledged $10 million in aid to the Philippines, while Prime Minister Tony Abbott wrote to President Benigno Aquino to pass on Australia’s condolences.
Ms Bishop said there had been no request for military help so far, but Australia was ready to assist.
She said there were no indications of Australian casualties other than Mr Lee.
A Melbourne woman feared missing has made contact with her family and appears safe and well.
Maiko `Michelle’ Reimann, 28, was travelling through the Philippines when the typhoon hit on Friday, but sent a text message to her family on Monday, saying she’s in El Nido, a municipality southwest of Manila.
Australian Aid workers on the ground have described scenes of utter destruction.
CARE Australia aid worker Sandra Bulling, who is in the coastal town of Ormoc, in southern Leyte, said almost every wooden house in the area had been destroyed.
“The concrete houses are like shells. Electricity poles have been broken like toothpicks. At the port, people are lining up at food and hardware stores,” she said.
“People are getting water from broken pipes that are lying out in the open. There’s no other source of water here.”
Oxfam Philippines country director Justin Morgan told AAP damage to roads and airports is also hindering rescue efforts.
“Houses, infrastructure, airports, anything across the path of the typhoon was destroyed.”
“If clean water isn’t provided quickly, disease will spread. We’re talking about a long term response here. Months.”
The Queensland government on Monday pledged $1 million in emergency aid with specialist rescue and recovery personnel on standby to head to the devastated region.
Victorian Premier Denis Napthine has also offered $100,000 to aid humanitarian relief efforts.
By Eoin Blackwell and Kym Agius (AAP)