50-plus Church meetinghouses open as shelters in Philippines after homes damaged, power knocked out by Typhoon Rai

More than 50 Church meetinghouses in the central and southern Philippines islands have opened as shelters for nearly 5,000 people in the aftermath of Typhoon Rai, known locally as Odette, the Philippines Newsroom reported. 

As many areas are without power, the 57 meetinghouses are using generators. 

Full-time missionaries are safe and accounted for. Two Church members in Calape, Bohol province, died after a tree fell on their home. Many families have lost their homes, according to the Philippines Newsroom.

The typhoon had winds of 121 miles per hour (195 kilometers per hour) and gusts of up to 168 mph (270 kph) as it hit Central Visayas and Mindanao and moved west on Thursday and Friday, Dec. 16-17, the Associated Press reported. As of Sunday, it was west of the Philippines and heading northwest, according to the Philippines weather center.

The typhoon toppled trees and poles, blew off roofs, knocked out power and phone services and caused flooding and landslides, according to news reports. In some areas, people were trapped on their roofs and in trees. It has been one of the more powerful storms to hit the islands this year.

As of Sunday, Dec. 19, 146 people had died due to the typhoon, the Associated Press reported. About 780,000 people are affected by the story, including more than 300,000 people who evacuated to shelters in advance of the storm, according to news reports. A Church meetinghouse in Tacloban opened as a shelter in advance of the storm. 

At least 227 cities and towns lost electricity, which has since been restored in only 21 areas, according to news reports. 

Church welfare personnel are working with local Church and community leaders in the Visayas and Mindanao areas.

The Philippines Area presidency invited members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to pray for those affected by the storm. 

“We invite all members of the Church in the Philippines to provide selfless acts of Christlike service where possible to ‘lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees,’” their message shared on Philippines Newsroom continued. “In these ways we gather in united faith and effort to light the world with the Savior’s love during this Christmas season.”