Church Response to damage after Tonga volcano eruption
Leaders of the church continue to assess damage after a volcano eruption near the Pacific nation of Tonga caused tsunami warnings, flooding, and thick ash to fall from the sky. Church leaders continue to assess damage after Tonga volcano eruption
Church leaders in Tonga are not aware of any loss of life on Tongatapu, Tonga’s main island. 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.
Missionaries serving in the Tonga Nuku’alofa Mission are safe, according to Pacific Newsroom, but communication has not yet been made with missionaries in Tonga’s second mission, the Tonga Outer Island Mission.
There is significant water damage to foreshore homes and businesses in Tongatapu. There is phone communication on Tongatapu but not internationally or between the Islands of Tonga. The International phone lines are not functioning due to what is suspected to be issued with the underwater communication cable.
The New Zealand Government reported on the weekend that it plans to send a surveillance flight on Monday, circumstances permitting. At the moment, volcanic ash is preventing flights.
Ash has stopped falling as of early Sunday afternoon (Tonga time) but has left a film of black volcanic ash across the Island. In the words of the local Church leader, Elder Inoke Kupu, “There is only one color in Tonga right now, and that is a dark dust.”
The Church will assist in the distribution of 50,000 donated masks, already in Tonga, sent previously for pandemic purposes. The masks are being distributed to prevent the inhaling of volcanic dust.
Church leaders continue to liaise with government officials so the Church can support humanitarian efforts in the coming days and weeks.
Drinking water is the immediate need. The Church will support the provision of water to communities, as needed, as assessments by government authorities continue.
The Church’s Liahona High School and some Latter-day Saint chapels are in use by those evacuated from coastal areas.
The Church has an emergency supplies container in Tonga which is being used. The Church has roughly 60,000 members in 174 congregations in Tonga.
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.