Typhoon Rai evacuees shelter in Church meetinghouse as storm hits Philippines

Several people seeking shelter from powerful Typhoon Rai that hit southeastern Philippines on Thursday, Dec. 16, rode out the storm in a Latter-day Saint meetinghouse. 

More than 130 people from villages around the Tacloban area on Leyte Island took shelter in the Tacloban Stake Center on Thursday morning. 

“After seeing these evacuees taking shelter in our meetinghouse, I reflected on what the Savior would have done if He were here,” Philippines Tacloban Mission President Fabian Sinamban said in a Facebook post. “I know that He would be with them to comfort and lift their spirits. We can follow His example in our own small ways.”

Church leaders and members shared Christmas videos featuring the story of Jesus Christ’s birth. Missionaries in the Philippines Tacloban Mission also shared two Christmas musical presentations.

Those sheltering in the meetinghouse were some of the nearly 100,000 people who had evacuated ahead of the storm, according to news reports

Typhoon Rai had sustained winds of 121 miles per hour, or 195 kilometers per hour, and gusts of up to 168 miles per hour, or 270 kilometers per hour, as it hit the eastern Siargao Islands. 

The typhoon has about a 250-mile-wide rain band, or about 400 kilometers wide, and officials said that about 10,000 villages were in its path. Disaster response officials said it’s one of the strongest storms to hit the country this year. 

As the storm moved across the islands, Typhoon Rai’s winds toppled trees, ripped off tin roofs and knocked out power in places. Also, coast guard personnel were rescuing those where rain caused flooding that swamped villages. 

There were no immediate reports of casualties or major damage, according to news reports.