PORT VILA, VANUATU
No members or missionaries in Vanuatu were injured when Cyclone Pam — a category-five 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.
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 Musir 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.