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Photos show devastation in Palo Alto's sister city

Donations are needed to help the city recover, Neighbors Abroad volunteers say

New photos show the devastation caused by Super Typhoon Haiyan to Palo Alto's Philippine sister city, which a local volunteer organization said was 90 percent destroyed by the disaster.

The just-released photographs show desperate people awaiting food and hanging onto their few possessions amid barren landscapes where forests are stripped bare of all vegetation and homes and businesses are reduced to piles of twisted metal and concrete in the city of more than 60,000 people.

Palo was 90 percent destroyed by the typhoon, which struck the Philippines on Nov. 8, said Ruth Carleton, Neighbors Abroad co-vice president for Palo.

Neighbors Abroad is the volunteer organization in Palo Alto that maintains cultural-exchange relationships with six cities throughout the world including Palo. The group released photographs on Thursday that it obtained from the relief agency Feed The Hungry.

Communication has been down since the typhoon, making it difficult to know who survived, the extent of damage and where to send relief funds. Neighbors Abroad has not heard from any of its counterparts in Palo, Carleton said. The daughter of Palo Mayor Remedios Petilla, who lives in California, has indicated that the mayor is safe, she said.

Neighbors Abroad are now asking Palo Alto and other area residents to help with monetary donations to aid Palo. The city is six miles from Tacloban, the destroyed provincial capital of Leyte, which has been prominently featured in news accounts.

The Palo Alto City Council donated $10,000 and many other residents are stepping up with contributions, but much more is needed, she said.

The money is being divided between two well-established agencies in Palo, Feed the Hungry Philippines and Phi Kappa Mu International, the latter composed of doctors volunteering in Palo.

Members of the local Filipino community are working with Neighbors Abroad to ensure all the money will be used for the benefit of the citizens of Palo directly, according to a Neighbors Abroad statement.

Feed The Hungry has so far distributed supplies and food to 500 Palo families, representatives of the organization stated in an email.

Palo was the first of six cities to become Palo Alto's sister city, a relationship established in 1963. Carleton has visited several times.

"We're concerned about the well-being of two librarians who run the children's library that we help support in Palo as well as the GIANTS, our counterpart Sister City organization there," Carleton said.

The cathedral in Palo is reportedly serving as a refuge for some of the many residents who lost their homes.

Donations earmarked for "Palo Relief Fund" may be sent to Neighbors Abroad, P.O. Box 52004, Palo Alto, Calif. 94303.

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