SALT LAKE CITY — The LDS Church announced tonight that it has contacted all of its missionaries in the Philippines and that all of them are safe, four days after a deadly and destructive super typhoon ravaged the island nation on Friday night, killing thousands.
The Philippines Area Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued an advisory that all missionaries "are safe and accounted for," according to the Philippines newsroom page at lds.org.
Sunrise in the Philippines on Tuesday arrived at what was nearly 3 p.m. Monday in Utah — and new information followed swiftly as the effort to locate missionaries began anew.
Tacloban was hit particularly hard by Typhoon Haiyan — the British paper The Guardian described the capital of the Leyte province as "obliterated" while Euronews said it had been "flattened" — and communication was sparse. Only a small percentage of cell sites or towers were working.
The advance warning for the storm provided time for the church to move missionaries to secure areas outside of Tacloban city. Each missionary also had been provided a 72-hour kit ahead of the storm. Those actions allowed church leaders to express a measure of confidence that the missionaries were safe.
On Sunday night, Elder W. Craig Zwick, an executive director in the church's Missionary Department, said in a statement that "Church leaders continue to make contact with missionaries throughout the Tacloban Mission in the Philippines, and all those we have been able to reach are safe. We anticipate that as we continue to re-establish communication, the remaining missionaries will be located and found well. We unite our faith and prayers with others in behalf of the people of the Philippines."
The storm damage severed communication lines and and rendered roads useless, making it difficult to reach all of the missionaries.
The Philippine islands are home to the largest concentration of Latter-day Saints in Asia, with more than 675,000 church members. The church has 20 other Filipino missions, about a third of which were in the storm's path.