Cyclones targeting Vanuatu: Missionaries safe, but temple groundbreaking rescheduled

State of emergency declared following severe tropical Cyclone Judy, with a second bearing down

Damage caused in Vanuatu by the severe tropical Cyclone Judy has resulted in the declaration of a state of emergency — and a second cyclone, Kevin, is targeting the nation comprised of 80-plus islands in the South Pacific Ocean.

All full-time missionaries have been confirmed safe and accounted for by local Church leaders, according to Pacific Newsroom. However, the Saturday, March 4, groundbreaking services for the Port Vila Vanuatu Temple has been postponed due to the pair of cyclones, the damages and the state of emergency.

Vanuatu — the archipelago west of Fiji consisting of 13 principal islands and some 70 smaller ones — is home to more than 11,000 Latter-day Saints, one stake, three districts and 37 congregations. With a national population of a little more than 300,000, one out of every 28 island residents is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ.

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Latter-day Saint leaders in Vanuatu have confirmed that all missionaries were accounted for and safe on the evening of Thursday, March 2, just after Cyclone Judy has passed over the islands. On the island of Efate, homes and businesses were flooded. Efforts to contact Church leaders and ensure that individuals and families are safe in the outer islands is continuing.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is ready to assist with emergency relief, Pacific Newsroom added.

News reports said the damages from Judy, a Category 4 cyclone, affected an estimated 160,000 people, with no deaths initially reported. Vanuatu and its capital city of Port Vila were hit hard in 2015, when Category 5 Cyclone Pam caused widespread damage across the islands — particularly Port Vila — affecting at least 166,000 residents.

A store in Port Vila, Vanuatu, is surrounded by flood waters caused by Cyclone Judy in March 2023. | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
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