Several missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were found safely after a category 5 cyclone killed at least 24 people and destroyed thousands of homes in the island nation of Vanuatu.
All communication was knocked out in the area after Cyclone Pam struck the islands in the South Pacific, and for some time the condition of the missionaries from the LDS Church were unknown.
Before the cyclone hit, the LDS Mission President for the area, Larry Brewer, advised the missionaries to secure shelter and ride out the storm. Government officials said the cyclone damaged or destroyed 80 to 90 percent of the homes on the main island, and other islands suffered direct hits or powerful glancing blows from the storm.
The families of the missionaries serving in that area were kept up to date through a website dedicated to that purpose hosted by the LDS Church.
Tuesday, four days after the storm hit, Brewer finally heard from mission leaders on the island of Tanna that all 11 missionaries there were safe. But it wasn’t until Thursday that contact with the last of the LDS missionaries in the area was made.
The LDS Church posted a statement on their media website Thursday afternoon:
All Latter-day Saint missionaries in the Vanuatu Port Vila Mission are accounted for, safe and well. The 11 Latter-day Saint missionaries who were on the Vanuatu island of Tanna when Cyclone Pam hit last weekend are now back in Port Vila. The six missionaries on the island of Ambae are also accounted for and safe. Where possible, missionaries throughout the nation are distributing food and other supplies to communities in need, and assisting people in other ways.
The LDS Church’s humanitarian department is assessing the needs in Vanuatu and will purchase goods and supplies in the South Pacific region to help in the humanitarian response that is pouring into Vanuatu.