WORLD NEWS

12 New Zealand missionaries out of contact after deadly cyclone

Feb 16, 2023, 9:37 AM | Updated: Oct 19, 2023, 12:54 pm

In this image released by the New Zealand Defense Force on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023, people stand o...

In this image released by the New Zealand Defense Force on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023, people stand on a rooftop of a home waiting to be winched to safety by helicopter in the Esk Valley, near Napier, New Zealand. The New Zealand government declared a national state of emergency Tuesday after Cyclone Gabrielle battered the country’s north in what officials described as the nation’s most severe weather event in years. (New Zealand Defense Force via AP)

(New Zealand Defense Force via AP)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand— Twelve missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are out of contact with mission leaders in New Zealand after a devastating cyclone smashed the island nation.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spokesman Sam Penrod told KSL TV that the missionaries are not missing or known to be injured or in danger, but after the cyclone swept through New Zealand, all the missionaries were able to be contacted except 10 in one city and two in another town.

The mission president is traveling to the missionaries with a satellite phone and it is hoped he is able to provide an update to the Church by later Wednesday night. Several communities are isolated because of telecommunication outages, floods and landslides.

Associated Press reported the cyclone created extensive flooding and landslides and is known to have killed four people. Cyclone Gabrielle hit the nation’s larger and more populated North Island on Monday. It is said to have brought more destruction to the country of 5 million people than any weather event in decades.

All those killed were in the North Island east coast Hawke’s Bay area. There is no information suggesting any missionary was in danger. It is not known what area the out-of-contact missionaries are in and being out of contact does not mean the missionaries are missing or unaccounted for.

A weather station in the Hawke’s Bay region recorded three times more rain over Monday night than usually falls for the entire month of February, authorities said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins told national and international reporters, it isn’t clear how many people nationwide are unaccounted for.

In this image released by the New Zealand Defense Force on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023, people stand on a rooftop of a home waiting to be winched to safety by helicopter in the Esk Valley, near Napier, New Zealand. The New Zealand government declared a national state of emergency Tuesday after Cyclone Gabrielle battered the country’s north in what officials described as the nation’s most severe weather event in years. (New Zealand Defense Force via AP)

“We expect the vast majority of these people will be accounted for. However, there are several people missing for whom police do hold grave concerns,” Hipkins told reporters.

He said 1,111 people had been reported found by Wednesday, which would cancel out some of those reported uncontactable. Around 9,000 people have been forced from their homes since Monday.

Along with rescues, the government was prioritizing restoring power and telecommunications as well as delivering food, water and medicine to where it was needed, Hipkins said.

A naval ship left Auckland late Wednesday with drinking water for Hawke’s Bay communities and another ship would follow with vital supplies on Thursday.

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12 New Zealand missionaries out of contact after deadly cyclone