While The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints determines what relief will be provided from Salt Lake City in the wake of this week's devastating earthquake and tsunami, local church leaders and members throughout the South Pacific are pitching in to provide immediate aid.
More than 150 casualties were reported in the affected areas of Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga. Among the dead were 22 LDS Church members in Samoa and four in American Samoa.
Two female missionaries on the Tongan island of Niuatoputapu — previously reported by the church as unaccounted for in the first days after the tsunami — have been confirmed to be safe and have been assisting in caring for refugees in their area.
Local LDS Church members in Samoa and New Zealand have collected donated humanitarian-relief supplies and shipped them to impacted areas in Samoa for distribution to those in need.
Aid for American Samoa has been primarily provided through government channels. When asked by government officials, LDS officials there made church meetinghouses available as accommodations for those who lost their homes.
On the small northern island of Niuatoputapu, the tsunami destroyed most of the homes in the three villages, leaving 90 percent of the 1,019 residents without shelter or clothing. Nine deaths and four critical injuries were reported on the island; no LDS members were among the casualties, although 10 LDS families lost their homes and belongings.
On Tonga's main island of Tongatapu, 12 LDS stake presidents took to radio airwaves, asking church members to donate food, clothing, cooking equipment, pillows, blankets and other necessities.
Donations were dropped off at local churches and loaded by full-time LDS missionaries, then transported by dozens of trucks to government warehouses. The military then took the supplies to a waiting French ship for anticipated delivery and distribution in Niuatoputapu early next week.
— Scott Taylor