JOPLIN, Mo. — With Joplin the hardest-hit area affected by Sunday's string of tornadoes sweeping through the Midwest, all Mormon missionaries in the area are safe and accounted for, with no LDS Church members reported among the initial fatalities.
However, the Joplin Missouri stake center — a large meetinghouse accommodating several local congregations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — was demolished in what local officials have called a "once in a generation event."
"Even though several members of the church lost their homes in the disaster, initial assessments indicate that members are accounted for, and only a few of them require hospitalization at this time," said President Matthew G. Montague, first counselor in the Joplin stake presidency.
At least 90 fatalities have been confirmed in the Joplin area, a city of 50,000 located 160 miles south of Kansas City. More deaths are expected to be reported as emergency personnel continued to sift through the destruction and debris Monday.
An EF-4 tornado — the second-strongest class — with winds of 200 mph cut a 6-mile-wide swatch Sunday through Joplin, uprooting some 2,000 structures.
The LDS Church said in a statement Monday that local priesthood leaders would continue to assess needs, with plans to contact officials in affected areas to determine how to assist with response efforts. Church members have begun already to assist with the clean-up.