As Cyclone Winston pummelled the Tongan islands of Vava’u late last week, 1,850 people took shelter in Latter-day Saint (Mormon) church buildings.
The category 4 storm hit the Pacific Island Group twice before it moved west, rising to a category 5 cyclone by the time it hit Fiji Saturday.
Garrick Parr, Tonga Service Centre manager for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, travelled to Vava’u on Saturday with an assessment team which included Australian and New Zealand High Commissioners as well as representatives from non-governmental organisations and the Tongan Government.
No fatalities have been reported on the island of Vava’u.
Some schools and homes on the island sustained damage, and many of the island’s family and communal gardens were destroyed.
By Saturday evening, those sheltering in Church buildings had safely returned to their villages.
“The chapels were all clean and reset, ready for normal Church meetings Sunday!” Mr Parr said.
The Tongan Government expressed gratitude to Church representatives for opening up Latter-day Saint buildings for those who needed shelter.