This past weekend (20-21 February), Cyclone Winston wreaked havoc on the islands of Fiji.
The powerful Category-5 storm was the strongest tropical disturbance ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere. At one point, winds were reported to have reached over 354 kilometres per hour in some areas.
The people of Fiji were tremendously impacted by the cyclone, with 42 reported deaths as of this afternoon [24 February].
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members were in the midst of significant activities surrounding the rededication of its Suva Fiji Temple during the weekend, including a long-planned youth cultural celebration.
Local Latter-day Saint leader, Elder Adolf Johansson, gave an early report of the storm’s impact on Church members:
• All Church missionaries serving in Fiji have been accounted for and are safe.
• There have been no reports of member casualties or injuries from local leaders.
• All Church properties are being assessed for damages.
• The Suva Fiji Temple sustained no damage.
Elder Johansson added, “Members are moving into Church meetinghouses as the need arises. The members in the Nausori and Lautoka Stakes [local units of the Church] are affected by flooding, and some are cut off as bridges have been washed away. Suva and Suva North Stakes have damages to property, mainly from falling trees. But members are in good spirits, although power has been cut throughout the country for three days."
Because of the cultural celebration, many Latter-day Saint youth, leaders, and some parents are still in Suva.
The bulk of the youth came from Lautoka Stake on the western side of the Island of Viti Levu. They will be traveling back this week arriving into Nadi, Lautoka, Ba, Tavua and Rakiraki. These are among the areas most affected on the main island.
Youth traveling back to the outer Islands of Vanua Levu, Taveuni, and Kadavu are waiting for the ferry to become available before traveling back. They are being housed at Church schools in Suva.
Elder Johansson also reported, “Members of the Church in Taveuni district were also affected. They are safe, at this point, with some occupying meetinghouses. We have sent funds to cover the purchase of any food that can be accessed immediately.”
Church leaders have been asked to continue assessing local needs, focusing first on sustaining life and reporting on any major welfare needs.
The status of Latter-day Saint buildings, particularly those on outer islands where some may have sustained substantial damages, is being assessed. Access to several buildings is not yet available. Currently, 26 of 45 meetinghouses in Fiji have been inspected. Of the 26 that have been reviewed, only minor damage is reported—mostly to the grounds, fallen trees, fencing damage, dislodged gutters, and water tank damages.