L.A. woman prays and waits for word of her family in the Philippines

(CBS News) LOS ANGELES - Southern California is home to the largest community of of Filipinos outside the Philippines, more than 300,000, -- 300 000 waiting for word.

For Los Angeles shopkeeper Virgie Lyons, her phone is a blessing and a curse.

It's a blessing because it's provided the only contact with her family in the typhoon-ravaged city of Tacloban - a brief call from her brother Saturday before his battery died.

It's a curse because she hasn't heard from him or anyone else since.

"He said, 'We're OK, don't worry.' He's like screaming, 'Tell them that we're OK.' After that we got cut off," Lyons said.

Her sister in Manila heard that two young nieces survived the typhoon but died yesterday -- whether from dehydration, hunger or injuries, they don't know.

Not knowing is terrible.

"I really, really hurt," Lyons said, a tear rolling down her cheek. "I want to know now that they're OK. There's nothing I can do - just pray."

California's Filipino community is praying and mounting a relief effort. Nurses are sending medical supplies. Neighbors are chipping in, too. The Bay-area organization Stop Hunger Now is shipping 285,000 meals. In Los Angeles, a Red Cross telethon raised almost $100,000 for relief aid.

Lyons was comforted by one thing her brother said in his brief call. He and his family survived the storm huddling in the sturdy house she had built for them with money she had earned in the United States.

Still, the TV images of the devastation are painful.

"Really, it's like a nightmare," Lyons said.

Not hearing, not knowing is unbearable.