Members Give Aid after Cyclone in Tonga

Contributed By By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer

  • 13 February 2014

Church members on the island of Tongatapu, Tonga, load donated food, water, and other emergency supplies to be transported to the Ha’apai Islands, which were heavily damaged by Cyclone Ian.   Photo from Mormon Newsroom Pacific.

Article Highlights

  • On January 10, Cyclone Ian hit Tonga’s northern islands, destroying more than 260 homes and taking the life of one woman.
  • Gusts reached almost 200 miles per hour, making it equivalent to a category 4 or 5 hurricane.
  • Local members and leaders responded quickly and continue to administer aid.

A cyclone recently destroyed the homes of more than 50 Latter-day Saint families in Tonga and caused serious damage to dozens of other member residences.

On January 10, Cyclone Ian pummeled the South Pacific archipelago of Tonga’s northern Ha’apai Islands with gusts reaching almost 200 miles per hour. The storm destroyed more than 260 homes and claimed the life of a woman. Some 8,000 people live in the affected area.

“The worst of Ian’s impacts were felt in the northern islands of Tonga, where the cyclone roared through as the equivalent of a category 4 or 5 hurricane,” meteorologist Chris Dolce told the Associated Press. “Ian then passed east of Tonga’s most populated island of Tongatapu, sparing the island from severe impacts.”

No members or missionaries were killed or seriously injured. Displaced member families have found temporary shelter in tents or in the homes of family or friends, according to Church Humanitarian Response director Bruce Muir.

The Pacific Area Presidency and local priesthood and Relief Society leaders responded immediately following the disaster, providing food and other provisions to members in need. Families affected by the cyclone continue to receive aid.

“The local [Tongan members] have been very generous,” said Brother Muir.

Several Church meetinghouses suffered minor damage. Repairs are already underway at most affected buildings.

Church welfare officials are continuing to monitor the situation in Tonga and are also examining long-term responses.

“We also have 30 full-time missionaries who have broken up into three 10-man teams,” said Brother Muir. “The missionaries are providing service during the day and are proselyting at night.”

Ian was the first tropical cyclone of the 2013–2014 South Pacific tropical cyclone season, which typically runs from November through April, said Mr. Dolce.