Missionaries in Tonga Nuku’alofa Mission safe; no contact yet with Tonga Outer Island Mission
SALT LAKE CITY — Missionaries serving in the Tonga Nuku’alofa Mission have been reported safe following Saturday’s volcanic eruption and ensuing tsunamis in Tonga.
Officials with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said as of Monday morning, no contact has been made with missionaries in Tonga’s second mission, the Tonga Outer Island Mission, due to damaged communication lines.
“We are praying earnestly for our brothers and sisters in Tonga, and for their loved ones across the world who are waiting for news,” said Elder Ian S. Ardern, Pacific Area President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “We are working with government and other officials in the region to identify urgent needs and how we can support efforts to alleviate suffering and help communities get back on their feet after this disaster. It is in times such as these that we are grateful for the generosity of members of the Church who donate to the Church Humanitarian fund for there will be a need of temporal assistance in Tonga.”
New Zealand and Australia were able to send military surveillance flights to Tonga on Monday to assess the damage from Saturday’s huge undersea volcanic eruption.
No casualties have been confirmed on Tonga, although a British woman was reported missing.
“Church leaders in Tonga are not aware of any loss of life on Tongatapu, Tonga’s main island,” officials said. “Reports from outer islands are still being sought but communication lines being down and rough seas are hampering efforts, although the Tongan Navy has now been able to put to sea to gather further information.”
The Church has a huge presence in Tonga, a country that, according to the Church, has the most Latter-day Saints per capita of any nation in the world.
Leaders previously announced the Church will distribute 50,000 donated masks that are already in Tonga and were previously sent for pandemic purposes. The masks are being distributed to prevent the inhaling of the volcanic dust that blanketed the island nation.
“There is only one color in Tonga right now, and that is a dark dust,” said local Church leader Elder Inoke Kupu.
Communication remains limited between the islands of Tonga and the international community after the sole underwater cable that connects Tonga to the outside world via Fiji was likely severed during the eruption.
Samiuela Fonua, who chairs the board at Tonga Cable Ltd. which owns the cable, told the Associated Press it would likely take a week to fix a single break while multiple breaks could take up to three weeks to fix.
There are 174 congregations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Tonga. A temple is located in Nuku’alofa and a second temple is being constructed on the island of Vava’u.
The Church owns 116 meetinghouses for worship services and other activities and runs six schools.
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