Members and Missionaries Safe in Vanuatu after Cyclone Pam

  • 24 March 2015

Article Highlights

  • All of the 6,100 members in Vanuatu are safe after the category 5 Cyclone Pam tore through Vanuatu.
  • The Church is currently working with area officials in New Zealand to address the situation and send aid to those affected by the cyclone.

PORT VILA, VANUATU

No members or missionaries in Vanuatu were injured when Cyclone Pam—a category 5 storm bearing 185 mph winds—ripped through the South Pacific on March 14.

The storm, considered the worst to hit the area in more than a decade, damaged 90 percent of Vanuatu’s buildings—including every school in Vanuatu’s island chain—and impacted some 4,000 Latter-day Saints.

In the storm’s wake, Church members and their friends and neighbors took refuge in the LDS meetinghouses in the impacted area. Beyond minor flooding, the storm did not damage Church property.

All missionaries serving in the Vanuatu Port Vila Mission and in the Suva Fiji Mission, which was also impacted by the storm, will be moved from the most damaged areas.

Vanuatu Port Vila Mission President Larry Brewer warned all of the Church’s missionaries in Vanuatu, New Caledonia, and the Solomon Islands of the cyclone two to three days before it hit. He instructed them to go to the safest places on their islands.

Days after the storm, 11 missionaries were flown to Port Vila, Vanuatu’s capital, on a plane that had delivered emergency supplies to the disaster area.

Elder Kevin W. Pearson, Pacific Area President, with Church Materials Management specialist Grant Stone with one of the 2,000 food boxes that will be assembled and sent to Vanuatu in the coming days. The food will go to people in Vanuatu who are recovering from the devastating impact of Cyclone Pam.

Latter-day Saint missionaries from the island of Tanna after flying to Port Vila on March 19, 2015. Eleven missionaries endured the brunt of Cyclone Pam along with other residents on the island.

Latter-day Saint volunteers sort through aid to be delivered to people in need after Cyclone Pam.

In addition, a Church welfare team from New Zealand arrived in Vanuatu to visit impacted regions, assess the situation and needs, and report back to the Area Presidency, said Bruce Muir, director of emergency response for the Church.

“We’re gearing up and looking at how we can get supplies in,” he said.

Brother Muir said the Church anticipates “a relief shipment consisting of food, water, water purification systems, chain saws, and other emergency response provisions.”

He said the storm—which destroyed up to 85 percent of the homes and crops—“was a disastrous punch” to the area, where many are subsistence farmers.

More than 6,100 Latter-day Saints live in Vanuatu, which has 31 LDS congregations and a total population of 260,000.