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LDS Church works urgently to contact missing missionaries, provide aid in Philippines

Published: Thursday, July 2 2015 1:40 p.m. MDT

A road to the St. Rose of Lima Parish in Daanbantayan town, the northernmost town of Cebu province, is strewn with debris, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013, two days after the Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines. Rescuers faced blocked roads and damaged airports on Monday as they raced to deliver desperately needed tents, food and medicines to the typhoon-devastated eastern Philippines where thousands are believed dead.  (Aledel Cuizon, Associated Press) A road to the St. Rose of Lima Parish in Daanbantayan town, the northernmost town of Cebu province, is strewn with debris, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013, two days after the Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines. Rescuers faced blocked roads and damaged airports on Monday as they raced to deliver desperately needed tents, food and medicines to the typhoon-devastated eastern Philippines where thousands are believed dead. (Aledel Cuizon, Associated Press)

LDS Church leaders reported new success Monday establishing contact with missionaries cut off from communication by the deadly and destructive super typhoon that ravaged the Philippines on Friday night.

All but 24 missionaries had been contacted as of 10:45 a.m. MST. All of those missionaries are from the Philippines Tacloban Mission. Tacloban was particularly hard hit by Typhoon Haiyan — the British paper The Guardian described the capital of the Leyte province as "obliterated" while Euronews said it had been "flattened" — and communication is sparse. Only a small percentage of cell sites or towers are working.

The advance warning for the storm provided time for the church to move missionaries to areas with adequate shelter. Church leaders previously reported that all the missionaries in the Tacloban mission had been moved outside of the city into safer areas. Each missionary also had been provided a 72-hour kit ahead of the storm.

A man, holding a boy, walks past dead bodies along the streets in typhoon-ravaged Tacloban city, Leyte province central Philippines on Monday, Nov. 11, 2013.  Typhoon-ravaged Philippine islands faced an unimaginably huge relief effort that had barely begun Monday, as bloated bodies lay uncollected and uncounted in the streets and survivors pleaded for food, water and medicine. (Aaron Favila, Associated Press) A man, holding a boy, walks past dead bodies along the streets in typhoon-ravaged Tacloban city, Leyte province central Philippines on Monday, Nov. 11, 2013. Typhoon-ravaged Philippine islands faced an unimaginably huge relief effort that had barely begun Monday, as bloated bodies lay uncollected and uncounted in the streets and survivors pleaded for food, water and medicine. (Aaron Favila, Associated Press)

All of the missionaries in the church's 20 other Filipino missions are safe.

"Church representatives are doing everything possible to contact missionaries and have been providing updates to family members of missionaries regarding their status as soon as they become available," said a statement posted today in the newsroom section of the official website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "Local church leaders continue to determine the safety and well-being of church members in the impacted areas and to seek out ways to assist others affected by the typhoon."

The church had last updated its website at 11 p.m. on Sunday, with a statement from Elder W. Craig Zwick, an executive director in the Church's Missionary Department, who reported that, "Church leaders continue to make contact with missionaries throughout the Tacloban Mission in the Philippines, and all those we have been able to reach are safe. We anticipate that as we continue to re-establish communication, the remaining missionaries will be located and found well. We unite our faith and prayers with others in behalf of the people of the Philippines."

Residents walk by debris after powerful Typhoon Haiyan slammed into Tacloban city, Leyte province, central Philippines on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013. The central Philippine city of Tacloban was in ruins Saturday, a day after being ravaged by one of the strongest typhoons on record, as horrified residents spoke of storm surges as high as trees and authorities said they were expecting a Residents walk by debris after powerful Typhoon Haiyan slammed into Tacloban city, Leyte province, central Philippines on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013. The central Philippine city of Tacloban was in ruins Saturday, a day after being ravaged by one of the strongest typhoons on record, as horrified residents spoke of storm surges as high as trees and authorities said they were expecting a "very high number of fatalities." (Aaron Favila, Associated Press)

The church dispatched a "Welfare Department employee" to Leyte to establish contact with Tacloban Mission President Jose Veneracion Andaya, said Stephen B. Allen, Missionary Department managing director.

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