Super Typhoon Yolanda, considered one of the most powerful storms of its kind to make landfall, has struck Palo Alto's sister city, Palo in Leyte Island in the Philippines, killing at least 31 people in the city, according to the Philippine news site GMA Network Inc.
The typhoon, also known by its international name Haiyan, made landfall in Guiuan, a city in Samar province in the eastern Philippines that is just east of Leyte Island. Palo, a city of 62,727 people, lies in northern Leyte just opposite Samar and sits on the Leyte Gulf. The area was one of the hardest hit by the storm, according to the report.
The number of dead as of Saturday was estimated at 1,200, with the casualties expected to rise, Gwendolyn Pang, secretary general of the Philippine Red Cross told the news agency Reuters. About 1,000 of the dead were on Leyte.
At least 100 people were officially confirmed dead in Tacloban City and Palo as the storm crossed the central Philippines on Friday, according to GMA Network. Journalists passed at least 10 bodies in a school on the way to Palo and anther 12 in a church near Tacloban. At least 20 bodies washed ashore and were laid upon a pier, GMA reporter Jiggy Manicad said in a report.
Philippines officials reported maximum sustainable winds of 147 mph with gusts of 170 mph. Manicad and his team felt like they were "inside a washing machine," as winds blew for four hours.
Video footage showed fierce winds and rain pounding buildings and snapping palm trees. Storm surges tossed vehicles and flattened buildings. Residents, clutching a few belongings, waded through waist-deep water.
In a church where GMA reporter Love Anover took shelter in Palo, the roof ripped off while video cameras rolled, and rain and debris fell inside. Anover emotionally recounted the experience in a later news report. Manicad said the church later housed at least 20 bodies that had washed onshore or were found by the road. Palo was left isolated by the typhoon, including widespread power and communication outages.
Palo and Palo Alto became "sister cities" in 1963; it was the first of Palo Alto's seven sister cities. Palo is the site of the 1944 landing of General MacArthur and the Allied troops during World War II, which 1aunched the liberation of the Philippines.
The sister cities have shared many cultural exchanges through the nonprofit organization Neighbors Abroad of Palo Alto. The organization was started by local residents to meet the challenge set by then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower during the Cold War to build relationships with overseas communities that would further peace and understanding among nations after World War II.
Neighbors Abroad has been sponsoring a children's library in Palo for many years. Each year books collected in Palo Alto are sent to the library. The library is one of the few in the Philippines where children can check out and return books, according to the organization's website.
Ruth Carleton, Neighbors Abroad vice president in charge of Palo, said the group had not yet heard from Filipino colleagues. All telephone lines are down in the area, she said.
"We are waiting on pins and needles. ... Knowing the area well, I can say the river's right there and the bay is right there. It would be a hard place to be," she said.
Neighbors Abroad will hold a board meeting on Wednesday to discuss ways to assist Palo. Persons wanting to help can send donations to Neighbors Abroad, P.O. Box 52004, Palo Alto, CA 94303.