(CBS News) NEW YORK -- Desperate to track down her family in her hometown of Tacloban in the typhoon-devastated Philippines, Jackie Duerr turned to Facebook. That's how she found out what her 78-year-old mother did to save their lives.
"My mother and my younger sister were holding on to a refrigerator floating around in muck for 45 minutes. They put the young children inside the refrigerator," Duerr said.
By using the refrigerator as a boat, Duerr's family survived. But they have lost everything. Like many other Filipino-Americans, she is collecting emergency supplies and raising money.
"We direly need help," she said. "This is for real. This is hell."
Military veterans from Los Angeles are forming and rescue teams. Matt Pelak is one of the leaders.
"Tools, saws, flashlights, sleeping bags, you name it," he said, listing the equipment the volunteers are bringing with them. "And it's all got to go on our backs."
Call centers are trying to put people in the United States in touch with family members in the Philippines.
But thousands remain missing, including Duerr's little brother.
"We have not heard from him so we are trying very much to find him," Duerr said, adding that the she is also concerned about the brother's family.
Duerr's son boarded a plane for Manila with a load of supplies. Once he arrives in the Philippine capital, he plans to drive to the devastated city of Tacloban. But after hearing stories of aid convoys being robbed on the way to the city, the younger Duerr is afraid for his safety.