SALT LAKE CITY — Mormon missionaries are returning to Madagascar three months after 79 were evacuated because of a plague outbreak that killed more than 200 people, according to an LDS Church news release.
"At this time, 12 missionaries are in various stages of returning to the island of Madagascar," the statement said. "Additional missionaries will arrive as the mission is ready to receive them."
On Oct. 19, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced the relocation or reassignment of 69 missionaries. They sent home 10 who were nearing the end of their missions.
The Madagascar Antananarivo Mission remained open. Missionaries continue to serve on the islands of Mauritius and Réunion.
The LDS Church also said Friday that 16 more missionaries soon will return to the Puerto Rico San Juan Mission after being temporarily reassigned due to hurricanes Irma and Maria last year. Last month, 14 young missionaries returned to Puerto Rico and two senior couples returned to St. Croix and St. Thomas.
Madagascar's outbreak of pneumonic and bubonic plague caused 202 deaths between Aug. 1 and Nov. 22, according to the country's Ministry of Public Health, which also tracked more than 7,300 cases of plague.
The director-general of the WHO visited Madagascar for three days earlier this month. He called for investments in health care to bring an end to plague in the country.
Plague is endemic to Madagascar, where plague season lasts from September to April, but the WHO called the recent outbreak unprecedented in terms of speed and reach. The outbreak reached non-endemic areas, including densely populated cities.
Plague is curable if detected in time.
"Ensuring the health and safety of our missionaries is our top priority," church leaders said in an October statement. "In recent weeks measures have been taken to reduce risk to missionaries, including providing them with prescription medication to help prevent plague and asking them to remain in their apartments. There are no reports of illness among the missionaries. Families are being notified as the missionaries are temporarily reassigned.
"This is a very challenging situation for the missionaries, members and citizens of these countries, and we are taking every practical step to reduce risk and praying for their health and safety."
Madagascar is home to about 11,300 Mormons.