Natural Disasters Impact Members around the World

Contributed By Jason Swensen

  • 23 September 2014

Article Highlights

  • Natural disasters in Mexico, Hawaii, and the Philippines have members and Church officials on alert.
  • All missionaries and members are safe and accounted for in Mexico following the hurricane.
  • Church welfare officials await reports from the Philippines, while no Church assistance has been requested in Hawaii.

“We do know that all the missionaries are fine. … There were no deaths or serious injuries to members.” —Bruce Muir, director of Church humanitarian response

Natural disasters have impacted the lives of Latter-day Saints in communities across the globe. Members in Mexico’s Baja California peninsula are drying out following Hurricane Odile—even as volcanoes threaten congregations in Hawaii and the Philippines.

In Mexico, local priesthood and Relief Society leaders are scrambling to assess the full impact that the category 3 storm had on member families. The hurricane hit the southern tip of the peninsula on September 14, causing extensive flood and wind damage to the popular tourist region—destroying buildings, washing out roads, and temporarily trapping vacationers in their hotel rooms.

The storm also wiped out power and phone systems, making communication difficult for several days. The Los Cabos airport was severely damaged and remained closed at press time. Relief supplies were being delivered to the area by helicopter.

“We do know that all the missionaries are fine,” said Bruce Muir, the director of the Church’s humanitarian response. “Also, there were no deaths or serious injuries to members.”

Brother Muir said his office is still gathering information on the status of Church meetinghouses in the impacted region.

Church headquarters did approve an initial emergency relief project soon after Hurricane Odile hit Mexico. The relief project allows local priesthood leaders to purchase food, water, and other essential items to assist members in need. Bishops and branch presidents were also utilizing fast offering funds where they see fit in their respective units.

Additional assistance may be provided once Church welfare leaders can gather a full assessment of the situation in Mexico.

On September 17, the most active volcano in the Philippines prompted a massive evacuation of thousands of villagers after it sent huge lava fragments rolling down its slopes.

Officials warned that a “hazardous eruption” of Mount Mayon, located in the eastern Philippines, is possible within weeks, according to the Associated Press.

Molten lava accumulated at the top of the 8,000-foot volcano’s crater, creating a glow in the night sky that sparked both awe and fear among spectators, the AP reported.

Church welfare officials were awaiting initial reports from the Philippines Area to determine how many members may be involved in the ongoing evacuation. Brother Muir said there are several Church units and buildings in the communities encircling Mount Mayon. Situated on the island of Luzon, about 200 miles southeast of Manila, the area is served by the Philippines Naga Mission.

Meanwhile, members living on Hawaii’s Big Island were also keeping a watchful eye on the volatile activity from the Kilauea volcano. At press time, lava from Kilauea was oozing toward a main road, threatening to isolate an island community of about 8,500 people.

“We do have a ward in that area,” said Brother Muir, who added there have been no requests yet for Church assistance.

It is unknown when the lava will halt its advance, according to National Geographic. Bulldozers were being used to carve out alternate routes for traffic in case the flow overruns the main road.