Missionaries and Members Reported Safe in Aftermath of Typhoon Phanfone

Contributed By Aubrey Eyre, Church News staff writer

  • 30 December 2019

In the Christmas Eve aftermath of Typhoon Phanphone (locally referred to as Ursula), which struck the Philippines on December 24, members and missionaries have been reported safe and accounted for.

According to a report from the Church’s humanitarian emergency response team and the Philippines Area Presidency last updated on the morning of Friday, December 27, more than 20 Latter-day Saint homes have been partially damaged, with 6 more listed as completely destroyed. 

A total of 37,473 families, or 157,345 persons, have been affected in 434 barangays—wards or districts in the Philippines. The report listed that some 19,605 persons are taking temporary shelter following the damages caused by the storm. 

Four Church meetinghouses are being used as evacuation shelters and are serving around 93 members who have been affected. 

The total number of deaths from the storm, as reported by CNN on Friday morning, stands at 28, with 12 people still missing.

While flooding, power outages, and debris continue to make it difficult to access and communicate with some affected areas, efforts continue to be made to reach all areas damaged by the storm to confirm safety and damage reports. 

Typhoon Phanfone, which made landfall on Christmas Eve, is reported to have sustained wind speeds of 93 miles per hour, with gusts up to 121 miles per hour. The storm additionally brought heavy rains, which have left flooding in its wake. 

“It was quite destructive, both in the taking of lives and property,” said Elder Evan A. Schmutz, General Authority Seventy and President of the Philippines Area. “Thankfully, no missionaries were injured—all were accounted for within 24 hours—and there were no injuries or death among members, according to our most recent reports.”

Although the initial brunt of the storm came from the high winds and sea surge, the lingering damage of the flooding is what Church leaders are now concerned about, Elder Schmutz explained.

“As is our practice, we are utilizing Church meetinghouses in the affected areas as refuge and gathering centers and supplying needed sanitary, sleeping, and survival kits,” he told the Church News in an email following the storm. 

The typhoon hit hardest in the Eastern and Central Visayas regions and has “maintained its strength while traversing the northern tip of Aklan and Antique provinces in Western Visayas,” according to the Church report. In Capiz and other places in Panay island, there continues to be severe flooding.

“As we work with our NGO and government partners to assess needs, the Church is already springing into action with relief goods and assistance,” Elder Schmutz said. “The Philippines is located in a part of the world that has more than its share of natural disasters, from frequent typhoons to earthquakes to active volcanoes. But the Filipino people are resilient and amazingly willing to pick themselves up after the disaster has passed and return to life and work.”

In the aftermath of the storm, the Church has, as always, proven to be a “reliable force for good in providing relief and ongoing assistance in the recovery process,” Elder Schmutz said.