News Story

Church Update on Pacific Earthquake and Tsunami Crisis

Following the devastating earthquake and resulting tsunami in the central Pacific, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is determining a response from Church headquarters in Salt Lake City while local relief efforts are underway. 

According to news reports, over 150 people have died in Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga. Church reports indicate that 26 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have died. Twenty-two were in Samoa and four were in American Samoa.

Two female missionariesof the Church who were previously unaccounted for on the island of Niuatoputapu are now confirmed safe (see the Newsroom blog for details on their experience).

Local Relief Efforts

Latter-day Saint authorities in Samoa and New Zealand have continued to devote substantial energies to organizing humanitarian relief locally for the battered islands of Samoa and American Samoa. 

Latter-day Saints throughout unaffected areas in Samoa have been gathering supplies and are continually shipping these to the impacted communities. Aid is to be given to all people in need, regardless of their religious affiliation. 

In American Samoa, aid supplies are being provided largely by government authorities who have asked Latter-day Saint leaders if they may use Church buildings to house those who have lost their homes.  The Church has responded willingly to this request.

Tongan Island Benefits From Assistance From Nearby Mormons

In Tonga, the tsunami crushed the small northern island of Niuatoputapu, destroying most of the homes in its three villages and leaving roughly 90% of its 1,019 people without shelter and clothing.  Survivors reported that the waves reached the boughs of the coconut trees and obliterated the island’s hospital, bank, government offices, telecommunication facilities, jail and airport buildings.  Nine people died and four were critically injured. 

No member of the Church in Niuatoputapu was killed or injured, though about 10 Latter-day Saint families lost their homes and essentially everything they own. 

Upon hearing of the tragedy, Church members on Tonga’s main island of Tongatapu provided relief for the people of Niuatoputapu.  On Thursday, Tongatapu’s 12 stake presidents broadcast a message on local Tonga radio inviting Church members to donate food, clothing, cooking equipment, pillows, blankets and other necessities. 

Church members were invited to drop their donations at their local churches, where full-time missionaries helped load them into trucks.  At first light Friday, dozens of trucks began transporting the goods to government warehouses.  From there, military trucks transported them to the nearby wharf, where they were loaded into a French ship, which will carry them to Niuatoputapu. 

Government leaders expressed sincere gratitude for what they described as an outpouring of love; they also expressed astonishment at how much was gathered in just a matter of hours.  The goods will arrive in Niuatoputapu early next week, where they will be distributed to any in need.

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