Communications cut off to Latter-day Saint missionaries forced to weather deadly cyclone in southeast Africa

This photo, released by the Mozambique Ministry of Information, shows some of the damage done by Cyclone Idai.

BEIRA, Mozambique, Africa, March 16, 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — The father of a Utah missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, serving in Mozambique, says the Church lost contact with seven of its missionaries in the wake of Cyclone Idai, a deadly storm that’s battered parts of southeastern Africa, killing as many as 140 people.

The father — who asked to remain anonymous — told Gephardt Daily the missionaries had missed a flight out of harm’s way and were forced to shelter in the city of Beira as the storm bore down. Several hours into the ordeal, according to the father, contact with the missionaries came to an abrupt end, most likely due to damage to communication towers and the loss of power reported across the region.

The father said one or more of the seven missionaries remaining in Beira were from Utah. He said 19 other missionaries were successfully evacuated before the local airport closed due to storm-related issues, including runway damage.

Daniel Woodruff, a spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, declined to comment on any loss of contact with missionaries, except to say that “… all missionaries are in a safe location during this storm.”

Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox tweeted on Wednesday that his son, Mozambique missionary Gavin Cox, is not in the area of the storm.

“Praying for the people of #Mozambique tonight as the powerful #Cyclone Idai is bearing down on Beira,” he wrote.

“Fortunately, Gavin is farther south in Maputo, and the Beira missionaries have mostly been evacuated.”

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Beira, in Mozambique’s Sofala Province, is the country’s fourth-largest city, with a reported population of more than 533,000.

According to information released by Mozambique’s Ministry of Information, Publicity & Broadcasting, 31 cyclone-related deaths had been confirmed at last report. Dozens of houses and huts have been destroyed, and bridges have been submerged or carried away.

“My thoughts & prayers are with all those affected by Cyclone Idai,” President of Zimbabwe Emmerson Mnangagwa wrote on his Twitter page.

Parts of Zimbabwe also have been devastated by the cyclone.

“Rescue operations are underway & we are grateful for the bravery of the men & women of the Zimbabwean armed forces who, along with our local & international partners, are participating in the urgent rescue efforts,” Mnangagwa wrote.

According to information on Mormonnewsroom.com, the Church has one mission in Mozambique, and 10,835 Church members, organized into three stakes and 29 congregations.

Information released by the government of Malawi, just north of Mozambique and flooded as a result of the cyclone, says that Malawi has suffered 56 deaths and 577 injuries, and approximately 82,725 had been displaced.

See a short video below of an accident caused by flooding in Malawi. Below that, find photos of storm damage to both Mozambique and Malawi.

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