Cyclone Olaf batters Samoa

APIA, Samoa — Construction work resumed on the Apia Samoa Temple two days after Cyclone Olaf, with high winds, heavy rains, and 40-foot waves, damaged Samoa's coastal areas Feb. 16.

Originally expected to hit Apia, the storm suddenly turned, hitting islands 120 nautical miles away from Apia.

Members in Apia feel they witnessed "a great miracle," as the storm did not damage their temple, said Sister LeAnn Walton, a public affairs missionary in the Church's Pacific Islands Area. Fire destroyed the original Apia Samoa Temple in July 2003; a new temple is under construction and is expected to be completed and rededicated later this year.

No members or missionaries were injured in the storm, which destroyed five homes on Tutuila. Strong winds, however, brought down trees and power lines throughout the islands and heavy rains caused two mud slides on Tutuila's north shore. The storm also did severe damage in Manu'a — which was hit directly.

Many homes and buildings were also damaged on the Cook Islands. In Aitutaki and Rarotonga roofs were blown off. Homes were also destroyed on the islands of Mitiaro, Atiu and Mauke.

On Aitutaki, the branch president's home was severely damaged and a member home burned down.

The Church donated $15,000 to aid storm relief.

"There has been a tremendous team effort in Samoa and American Samoa to respond to this storm and to the needs of our people," said Sister Walton. "Many local priesthood leaders and members have provided effective leadership and service. Local leaders have tried their best to (put into) action plans despite serious communication and transportation challenges. In many cases stake presidents and bishops have walked long distances in storm conditions to attend to their members."

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