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Rock Hill Philippines native doesn’t know if family survived typhoon

More than three days after a typhoon battered the Philippines where thousands are feared dead and millions homeless and isolated, Rock Hill’s Veronica Mahaffy still does not know if her family in the Philippines survived the storm.

Mahaffy has seen the news coverage of the devastation of her homeland and is “so sad I don’t know what to say. All is gone.”

Mahaffy, a cook at Tropical Sunrise restaurant, is from Balangiga, a village of about 12,000 people in the Samar province in the central part of the archipelago which took a direct hit. Another village just a few dozen miles away, Basey in Leyte province, has an estimated 2,000 people missing after the village was destroyed.

“We have had no contact at all,” said Mahaffy, 45. “I still am kind of shocked, stunned. I keep trying to get in touch but there is nobody to tell me anything.”

Mahaffy also has relatives in the large city of Tacloban where the confirmed death toll is highest.

“I haven’t heard anything from any of them,” she said.

Tessie Baldwin, a Philippines native who runs the Tropical Sunrise restaurant in Rock Hill, is planning a local fundraiser for Sunday at lunch to help typhoon victims. The event will be from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the restaurant, located at 135 S. Herlong Ave., with proceeds going to the Philippines through the American Red Cross. Baldwin and her husband, Roger, who operated the former Tropical Escape restaurant in Rock Hill for more than 35 years, raised thousands of dollars for Japanese tsunami victims in March 2011.

Several Tropical Sunrise employees have volunteered to help Sunday. Buffet lunches with a drink will go for $12.

“People have been calling to ask what they can do, and what we all can do is help,” Tessie Baldwin said. “I see on the news what happened and I think of all those people – those children. When I was a little girl it happened and our whole house was gone, wiped out. This is even worse.”

The restaurant will accept donations all week through the Sunday event. For information, call 803-366-3888.

Andrew Dys •  803-329-4065
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