As a typhoon believed to be one of the most powerful in history barreled into the central Philippines, many in the Washington region were watching Thursday night with fear and prayers.

Typhoon Haiyan’s maximum sustained winds on landfall were 195 mph, with gusts up to 235 mph, the Associated Press reported.

As millions around the world feared extreme destruction, several groups in the Washington area already had planned relief benefits, including a pair of concerts scheduled for this weekend in Alexandria and Virginia Beach.

The efforts were originally sparked by previous disasters in the Philippines, including a deadly earthquake in mid-October, according to news reports. In recent days, organizers have shifted their focus to raise money for the Red Cross as it responds to the storm’s aftermath.

“We’re so used to these epidemics and calamities in the Philippines, but unfortunately this is going to be the biggest of all the storms,” said Bing Branigin, an activist in Northern Virginia who represents the director of the Red Cross in the Philippines, Richard Gordon.

On Thursday, the Asia America Initiative sent an emergency flight with $600,000 worth of medicine and medical supplies in response to the earthquake, Branigin said, but now activists must retool their efforts.

In Alexandria, a benefit concert will be held at 8 p.m. Friday at Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill. It will be hosted by an association of Philippine nurses in the Washington area and the National Federation of Filipino American Associations. Proceeds of the $25 event will go to the Red Cross.

In Virginia Beach, Naomi and Roy Estaris turned to a Philippine channel on cable TV on Thursday night to see footage of children fleeing to the hills in an effort to avoid flooding.

The couple own a travel agency, and 90 percent of its clients travel to and from the Philippines. They worried about several clients who left for the island nation this week and for others awaiting word on their plans to visit family back home.

Naomi Estaris said that just this year, Virginia Beach became a sister city with Olongapo City in the Philippines. The city donated four boats — which have yet to be shipped — to help with future disasters. The family hopes more help will follow.

“It’s quite disheartening. Everyone is praying that everyone keeps safe,” Naomi Estaris said in a phone interview. In addition to needs from recent natural disasters, “we can just imagine the devastation they may be facing. You see the [map] overlay, and the whole country is taken in the storm.”

The couple helped organize a benefit concert for Saturday. The 6 p.m. show, with tickets from $50 to $75, will be held at 4857 Baxter Rd. in Virginia Beach. Organizers expect to donate some proceeds to the Red Cross general relief efforts, but also to also set aside money for recovery supplies.

“We’re not just looking at sending canned goods,” Naomi Estaris said. “The concert coming up is now more invaluable. It’s kind of timely because we didn’t know the typhoon was coming.”