Cyclone Gita caused severe damage to Tonga, many believe it was the worst disaster to hit Tonga in 60 years.
Member, Lima Finau called it, “one of the most fearsome storms I have ever encountered”.
Sister Finau was at home with her husband Tuai and three children when the cyclone hit.
“It was really scary,” she said.
“It was too strong, and the damage was severe. Our whole porch was destroyed and thrown on the neighbour’s backyard. The roof was thrown off the neighbour’s garage.
“I didn’t know if I would survive. I was just grateful I was together with my family when it happened.“
As many as 50% of homes were destroyed or damaged and many 'non-substantial' buildings were also destroyed. Trees were snapped off or up-rooted and power lines are down all over the island. It is estimated that it could take weeks to restore power.
Missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have stepped in to assist in the clearing of roads. They are also helping with cleaning, chainsaw cutting, and other clean up efforts.
Members are also doing their best to help, such as Sister Va’enuku, who was preparing meals for the community within hours of the cyclone passing over Tonga.
But this was no surprise to Rina Taufa, who said “I remember being 15 and Sister Va’enuku, who always cooked by herself for the church or some 100 of her grandkids. Til this day, nothing has changed! Those who know her knows that she will give her last penny to a stranger”.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opened their meeting house doors to as many as 9,000 residents who crowded into buildings to escape the cyclone's force.
Following the night of storm, yellow-vested Helping Hands volunteers from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were out in number along with their neighbours to begin the task of cleaning up and rebuilding.
'Missionaries in Tonga are taking refuge in church buildings away from the coast and have taken necessary preparations to help keep them safe,' he said Daniel Woodruff, spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints added. 'We pray for all those in the South Pacific who are impacted by this powerful storm.”
All missionaries and other members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been accounted for and are safe.