The tight-knit community watched reports and waited anxiously to hear from relatives as Super Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines.
WILMINGTON, Del. -- Ruben Rubio kept his restaurant television glued to news of the Philippines Friday, tracking every new report of Super Typhoon Haiyan's battering of the island nation where he was born.
Rubio, owner of Philippine Bread House in Wilmington, said all of his family moved to the United States years ago. But others in Delaware's small, tight knit Filipino community faced anxious hours as Haiyan, with wind gusts of up to 235 mph, pounded across the center of the more-than 7,000 island nation.
Communications were lost to large areas of the country, amid reports of heavy damage, and up to 1,200 people were feared dead, according to an estimate Saturday from the Philippine Red Cross.
"I've been going back every year for the last four years, and I'm very concerned for them," Rubio said. "They've said it's one of the strongest storms the world has seen."
About 2,600 Delaware residents were born in the Philippines as of 2011, up from 1,321 in 1990, according to the Census Bureau. About 3.4 million people of Asian descent nationwide identified themselves as Filipino.
For Ana Ryzkiewicz, who moved to Delaware from the Philippines in 2009, worries about her parents Thursday night as Haiyan bore down were eased with a phone call Friday. Although some buildings around her childhood home lost roofs, her Filipino parents had moved south, closer to Cebu City, and had little damage.
"I talked with them and they said, so far, they were good, although it was pouring," Ryzkiewicz said. "It was mean, but it was tolerable."
Typhoons are an annual threat in the Philippines, with more than a dozen crossing the sprawling chain of islands yearly. Some 750,000 people were evacuated in advance of the latest storm.
"I remember in 1990, the first year in high school, the biggest and meanest typhoon I have ever experienced came through," Ryzkiewicz said. "The whole house was shaking, the second floor of the house was broken and the roof flew away. It's something I can never forget."
Reports on Friday indicated Haiyan's forward speed, about 27 mph, might have held damage down compared with past storms that crawled across land and killed large numbers of people.
In Middletown, Del., Joseph Balan also followed Haiyan's westward sweep across the Philippines, worrying for relatives of friends and recalling his own experiences while growing up on Mindanao, a large southern portion of the country that was mostly spared the Haiyan's worst. Some in-laws lived in the Cebu and Leyte area, closer to the central Visayas region, he said, but appeared to have come through largely unscathed.
"We had typhoons every year while I was there, 20 a year sometimes, and an earthquake once," Balan said. "But there wasn't that much damage, because those areas weren't as populated then as they are now."
After losing strength as it moved over the Philippines and west into the South China Sea on Saturday, Haiyan was expected to maintain typhoon strength and hit Hanoi, Vietnam, late Sunday local time.
Emilio Rana, president of the Filipino American Association of Delaware, said his organization already has started fundraising to help the country recover from Haiyan, an effort that comes right on the heels of a fundraiser for victims of an earthquake that killed hundreds on Oct. 16.
"The typhoon property damage was huge, houses, rice fields, and the biggest damage was in the center of but the damage was huge on the properties, rice fields, all those houses. The downtown of the largest city was almost wiped out."
Rana, who came to the United States 10 years ago, described Delaware's Filipino community as a large family.
"We have some members of the association with relatives in Cebu and Leyte. They've been praying for their families since last night," Rana said. "We're a very tight family here, and we're trying to preserve our culture in Delaware."
Ron Soliman, a professional photographer and former photo editor for The News Journal, said Friday that relatives of his in the northern part of the country, around Manila, reported flooding and other problems, but no severe damage.