The island nation has the highest percentage of Latter-day Saints in the world.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is sending aid to the Kingdom of Tonga after last week’s volcanic eruption caused tsunamis, rockfalls and a communications blackout.
In a press release from the Utah-based church, officials said they have reached out to leaders in Tonga over the past 24 hours and are working to understand the extent of the region’s needs. Tonga has the highest percentage of Latter-day Saints of any country in the world (nearly 63%), and a ferry with 30 tons of supplies donated by other Mormon congregations left for the Ha’apai Islands on Saturday. from the country.
According to the Associated Press, at least three people died after the explosion and several settlements on the small islands of the archipelago were “wiped off the map”. About 15 families are still staying at the church-run Liahona High School with nowhere to go, the statement said, but they could move into nearby chapels once the school reopens.
On Friday, the church’s ruling First Presidency sent a letter to Latter-day Saints in Tonga, reminding them that the church will be with them throughout the island’s recovery. Another letter was due to be delivered to the King and Queen of Tonga on Saturday.
“As you recover from the devastating volcanic eruption and ensuing tsunami, and from all that you have endured and are enduring, know that your holy brothers and other people of faith and goodwill in the world people are praying for you,” Presidents Russell M. Nelson, Dallin H. Oaks, and Henry B. Eyring wrote. “We pray that the Lord will pour blessings on each of you, that your hearts will be soothed and strengthened, that your families and homes will be restored and refreshed, and that your communities will become peaceful and beautiful again.
A second supply ferry will be sent to the country’s outlying islands on Wednesday. Supplies have already been sent to communities on the west side of Nuku’alofa – Tonga’s capital – and Eua Island, both of which were hard hit by the tsunami, the statement said.
Tonga Outer Islands Mission church leaders are on their way to Ha’apai with 35 returned missionaries who will help deliver supplies, including a satellite phone that was used in Eua until telephone service from l island be restored. Fuel for the mission boats will also be delivered to Ha’apai to distribute supplies to some of the smaller islands.
Although stores across the country remain open and stocked, they are rapidly running out of essentials, the statement said. Government officials are working to clear shipping channels to the country’s capital so large ships can dock, while domestic flights to two of the country’s island systems – Vaava’u and Ha’apai – are operational.
Those wishing to support the people of Tonga can donate to the church’s humanitarian fund, the statement said, which is available here.