According to the reports, the church is organizing an air cargo shipment of essential materials to Tonga as soon as conditions at the airport in Tonga allow. This includes drinking water and masks for protection from volcanic ash.
It will also include additional satellite phones for use by church leaders and government officials to expand communication to and from Tonga. The shipments will go as soon as conditions at the airport in Tonga permit.
The church continues to gather information about the status of its missionaries and members in Tonga. All missionaries and members on the main island of Tongatapu have been accounted for and reports continue to come in from the outer islands.
So far, all have been confirmed safe but there are still some islands that have not been reached. Two Tongan government vessels have been visiting these areas and are bringing food and water. Their progress has been hampered by damage to landing facilities in many places. It is hoped they can reach the most distant areas by tomorrow.
As of Jan. 19, all missionaries and members on the main island of Tonga, Tongatapu, have been accounted for but reports continue to come in from the outer islands where communication has not yet been reestablished.
No Latter-day Saint buildings have been structurally damaged, although they will require extensive cleaning from the ash that has blanketed the islands, including the capital, Nuku’alofa.
Pacific Newsroom reported on Jan. 18 that the Tonga Outer Islands Mission President Sitiveni Fehoko would travel on a naval vessel to check on missionaries. Thus far, all contacted have been confirmed safe but there are still some islands that have not been reached.
Tongan Latter-day Saint leaders continue to evaluate individual and family needs and organize accommodation, food, water and other support.
The Church-owned Liahona High School campus as well as several Latter-day Saint meetinghouses and the Church’s campsite have served as a shelter for hundreds. Missionaries on Tongatapu are engaged in the clean-up efforts.
Church services Sunday, Jan. 23, will be home-based, and Latter-day Saints will be invited to fast and pray, to give thanks for the many lives that have been preserved, and to plea for a return to normality.
Elder Ardern said: “We are praying earnestly for our brothers and sisters in Tonga, and for their loved ones across the world who are waiting for news. 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.”
The Church has roughly 60,000 members in 174 congregations in Tonga. A temple is located in Nuku’alofa with a second temple under construction on the island of Vava’u.
Members looking to donate to help efforts in Tonga can contribute to the Church’s Humanitarian Aid Fund.