Recent tropical storms caused severe flooding in Mexico and the Caribbean, prompting humanitarian efforts by the Church and local members.
There were no reports of deaths or serious injury to members or missionaries, although many member homes suffered serious damage in the rising waters. Now Church leaders are focusing on remedies to long-term problems that might result from the disasters.
After four days of heavy rain in the southeast state of Tabasco, more than a million people have been affected by rising floods in the state capital of Villahermosa, according to reports quoting Gov. Andres Granier.
A cold front brought rains that began Oct. 28 and lead several rivers to swell and burst their banks.
Eighty percent of the state came underwater before conditions began to show improvement. Tens of thousands remain in makeshift shelters and on rooftops.
Speaking with the Church News over faulty phone lines damaged by the floods, President Jose Fidel Lopez of the Villahermosa Mexico Gaviotas Stake expressed gratitude that no members in Villahermosa were lost to the floods. Speaking from a neighboring stake center, he said seven chapels are being used as shelters for displaced victims while three others in his stake remain partly submerged.
About 800 members have experienced devastating loss, he said.
"But," said President Lopez in a positive tone, "because our homes are made of hard material as opposed to wood, we've lost most furniture but many will be able to repair their homes."
Six days of continual rainfall is to blame for heavy flooding that caused 85 deaths and displaced more than 75,000 people. Many others are still missing.
"We really got hit a 100-year storm," said Kay Briggs, the Church's temporal affairs director in the Dominican Republic.
Hardest hit were rural areas, particularly in communities built near rivers and other waterways. Small streams quickly became raging rivers during the perpetual deluge. Between Oct. 27 and Nov. 1, it rained "like a garden hose," Brother Riggs said.
While no members were killed or seriously harmed, some 35 families from the San Cristobal Dominican Republic Stake lost their homes. Folks living near the interior waterways were especially vulnerable.
No Church buildings were seriously damaged, although many did take in water, Brother Briggs said.
The Santo Domingo Dominican Republic Temple, which was built on a rise in the capital city, suffered no water damage. In fact, electrical power was never interrupted inside the edifice, thanks to internal generators. "The temple stood like a beacon," Brother Briggs said.
At press time, some Church meetinghouses were also being used as civil defense headquarters. Meanwhile, fast offering funds were made available to local priesthood leaders to purchase food and other provisions. Bishops, stake presidents and Relief Society leaders have answered the call to serve.
"It's been beautiful to watch bishops and stake (officials)" perform their duties," Brother Briggs said.
Long-term concerns include damage to much of the nation's rice, tomato and corn crops, along with the potential for disease associated with large areas of standing water.
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