By Gary Walker
A Santa Monica company whose president was in the Philippines during Typhoon Haiyan has started a relief fund to aid victims of the storm.
Patrick Doles, founder of EarthCoco, said the typhoon landed within 50 miles of the company’s food processing plant on the island of Samar, which came under a deluge of heavy wind, rains and flooding earlier this month.
“We woke up and our neighborhood had been flattened. The storm surge pretty much washed out everything that was at sea level,” said Doles, 51, who was reached by telephone on Nov. 13, the first day his cellular service was restored.
According to news reports, the typhoon has claimed the lives of more than 3,900 known dead and has left some four million people homeless.
For Doles, who travels regularly to the Philippines, one of the sadder moments of his travels was hearing how 400 children in a low-lying part of the island had been killed by a surge of floodwater.
Doles was traveling from hardest-hit eastern Samar to the west side of the island four days after the storm hit and faced numerous logistical challenges that have also hampered relief efforts.
“Gasoline is practically nonexistent in [hard-hit] eastern Samar,” Doles said. “We’re taking private transport to northern Samar. We’re piece-mealing our way out of here.”
As of Tuesday, Samar remained without electricity in a state of total blackout, Doles said in a follow-up call.
Doles will stay in the Philippines until December and help with relief efforts, he said.
In the initial three days that Doles could not be reached, Earth Coco Vice President Joel Polis had feared for his partner’s life.
“By Monday night, I was getting really worried,” said Polis, an actor who had a reoccurring role as rival bar owner Gary on the television show “Cheers.”
EarthCoco manufactures and distributes products made from coconut, a vital part of the economy in the Philippines, which produced nearly 20 million coconuts for export each year.
The company is raising relief funds through its website, earthcoco.com.