SALT LAKE CITY — The LDS mission president in Vanuatua dispatched two missionaries by boat on Wednesday to find six missionaries on the northern island of Ambae.
President Larry Brewer has not been able to contact the six missionaries on Ambae since Friday, when Cyclone Pam rampaged across Vanuatu's islands with winds reaching 185 mph.
Brewer believes the missionaries are safe because he instructed them to find shelter before the storm and because the northern islands did not take the full brunt of the fearsome Category 5 cyclone, according to a spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Brewer is in the capital city of Port Vila on Efate Island. On Wednesday, he instructed two missionaries living on Espiritu Santo Island to travel by commercial boat a few dozen miles east to Ambae. An LDS Church news release said officials expect to hear a report later Wednesday or early Thursday.
The missionaries on Ambae are the final remaining missionaries Brewer has been unable to reach. All other LDS missionaries in the South Pacific are safe and accounted for.
The missionaries from Espiritu Santo also carried emergency supplies for people on Ambae.
Meanwhile, five sister missionaries who had been serving on ravaged Tanna Island, which took a direct hit from Cyclone Pam, evacuated safely to Port Vila by airplane on Wednesday.
The five women are staying at the mission home with Brewer and his wife.
“All of them were in very good spirits and looked just like they did last time I saw them,” President Brewer said, according to a blog set up for parents of missionaries in Vanuatu.
Brewer chartered a small plane on Tuesday and sent his two assistants to Tanna, where they met the 11 missionaries there, including the five women evacuated Wednesday.
The assistants brought food purchased by the church and delivered it to the president of the church's White Grass Branch on Tanna Island. A branch is a small LDS congregation.
The plane will return Thursday with another load of food and pick up the assistants and the other six missionaries.21 comments on this story
Brewer sheltered 40 missionaries at the mission home in the capital city of Port Vila on Efate Island during the cyclone, considered the worst tropical storm to hit the South Pacific since 2002. A tree fell and damaged the home, but no one was harmed.
Power to the mission home was restored early Thursday morning. Vanuatu is 17 hours ahead of Salt Lake City.
LDS Church leaders continue to assess needs in the region. The faith has 6,100 members in 31 congregations across Vanuatu. Employees from the church's Pacific Area office were scheduled to fly from Auckland, New Zealand to Port Vila on Wednesday.
Vanuatu missionaries have begun to assist in clean-up efforts.