Members Survive Deadly Storms
January 2005

“Members Survive Deadly Storms,” Liahona, Jan. 2005, N3–N4

Members Survive Deadly Storms

Members in Taiwan were affected by Typhoons Rananim and Aere, while those in the southeastern United States coped with Hurricane Charley. Fortunately, all members escaped life-threatening injury. Now, months later, residents of the affected areas are still putting their lives back together, and members of the Church continue helping out where they can.

Devastation Quick, Recovery Slow after Two Typhoons

Only two weeks after Typhoon Rananim killed a man as it swept the northern tip of Taiwan, members there survived a second deadly typhoon, Aere, that battered the northern half of Taiwan on August 24–25.

No members were killed in either storm, but during Aere a number of members lost possessions and received flood damage to their homes in Sunchung City, Taipei, and were without drinking water for several days in Taoyuan County.

“Although we lost some possessions, we are all safe,” said Bishop Sheng-hsiung Wang of the San Chung Ward, Taipei Taiwan Central Stake. “We felt we were protected by the Lord.”

James Chao, manager of the Church’s Taiwan Service Center, distributed 10 tons (9 tonnes) of water during the shortage to both members and those of other faiths.

Aere triggered a mudslide that buried a building belonging to another church, killing two who sought shelter there. Seven others had been reported dead at press time. About one million homes were left without water or electricity throughout the island.

About two weeks earlier, members in Taiwan had been more than happy to bid farewell to Rananim, a typhoon with a name meaning “hello” in the Chuukese language spoken in Micronesia.

The typhoon claimed one life as it brushed Taiwan’s northeastern tip, and another 115 lives when it slammed into China’s southeastern coast on August 12, news reports said. Another 16 were reported missing and 1,800 injured in the days after. This was the 14th typhoon to hit China in 2004 and was the most powerful since Typhoon Winnie struck the coast in 1997, killing about 250 people.

The Shihmen Reservoir, Taiwan’s biggest reservoir, was forced to open its floodgates because of excess water. Authorities urged residents downstream to evacuate if necessary.

Damage from Typhoon Rananim is expected to reach 15.33 billion yuan (U.S. $1.85 billion), and it affected more than 8.5 million people. China’s central government allocated 61 million yuan (U.S. $7 million) for emergency aid. Relief workers arrived in the disaster areas soon after the storm hit and have been helping to rebuild the affected areas in China and Taiwan.

Church Helps Pick Up after Hurricane Charley

Monstrous waves, 180 mph (290 kph) winds, and sheets of rain were just a few characteristics of the hurricane Florida residents came to know intimately last August. Hurricane Charley tore into the lives of thousands, leaving a wake of destruction estimated to cost more than U.S. $10 billion. But following his trail were relief workers willing to give of their time and resources to help those whose lives were forever affected by the storm.

The Church responded to the plea for help by those who no longer had electricity, food, or even homes. Semi-trucks filled with emergency supplies such as food, water, tents, bedding, tools, and roofing materials were immediately sent to Port Charlotte, an area that was hit hard by the storm.

After an assessment of the damage, more relief supplies were sent along with cash donations to assist the victims. Church storehouses in Orlando and Plant City, Florida, and Atlanta, Georgia, supplied food for thousands who remained homeless for weeks after the storm. More than 23,000 hygiene kits to help meet basic needs were also distributed to those in need.

Along with the supplies came a volunteer force of 1,500 Saints, including full-time missionaries and members from more than 130 congregations in south Florida. They brought their own tools, water, food, and camping supplies so as not to take away from those who didn’t have anything.

Some volunteers took on the task of repairing homes of hospital personnel in Port Charlotte so they could return to work to meet the health needs of the community. They also helped in Wauchula, Kissimmee, Arcadia, Punta Gorda, and other areas.

Many volunteers came from Miami, where Church members remember the generosity of others after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. “During Hurricane Andrew, people from other areas [of Florida] came to Miami to help us clean up, and we’d like to return the favor,” said M. Anthony Burns, president of the Homestead Florida Stake.

Members from the Brandon Florida Stake, an area near Tampa, were on the phone with members in the Port Charlotte Ward as soon as they heard Port Charlotte was receiving the brunt of the storm. They arrived before relief workers had time to set up camp, so they began clearing the grounds around the meetinghouse using tools and machinery from the local Church farm. They then went to members’ homes to assess their needs.

All members in all areas of Florida were accounted for with no reports of injury, though some lost their homes. All missionaries were evacuated before the storm hit, but they later returned to help in the relief efforts. At least seven meetinghouses were damaged, but repairs are underway or already completed.

While the member volunteers helped clear people’s property, counselors from LDS Family Services in Salt Lake City were helping clear people’s minds. “In these abnormal situations a lot of what we do is reestablish family patterns and instill hope in the community,” Doug LeCheminant, program specialist for LDS Family Services, said. They have also helped in such situations as the September 11 tragedy and the Kosovo refugee crisis.

George Mazzeo directs a crew of volunteers from the Plantation and Davie Wards, Fort Lauderdale Florida Stake, as they remove pieces of a tree from a roof. (Photograph by Steve Frahm/courtesy of Church News.)