Earthquakes, a tsunami and massive flooding have combined to make 2011 the costliest year for natural disasters on record according to a recently released Welfare Services report of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). 
Disasters which occurred during the first half of the year caused $265 billion worth of damage. This broke the record set in 2005, the year that hurricane Katrina hit the southern states in America. The amount of damage caused by disasters in 2005 was approximately $220 billion. Japan’s earthquake and tsunami damage alone has been estimated at $235 billion.
The humanitarian services arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes inadvertently called the “Mormon Church”) offered help throughout the year. The LDS Church responded to 111 disasters in 50 countries, providing a total of $22 million in emergency aid and organizing thousands of volunteers through the Mormon Helping Hands program to assist those affected. In addition to natural disasters, east Africa experienced one of the worst droughts and famines in more than 60 years.
2012 is starting out to be another difficult year. The end of February and beginning of March yielded over 100 destructive tornadoes in the Midwest and southern U.S. states. The Church of Jesus Christ always has relief supplies standing at the ready to offer aid fast. Hygiene kits and other supplies were immediately shipped to stricken areas.
The Church of Jesus Christ participated in the following initiatives:
- After the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, more than 250 tons of supplies were distributed during the first few months following the disaster, including food, water, blankets, bedding, hygiene supplies, clothing and fuel. Twenty-two thousand Church-sponsored volunteers have provided more than 175,000 hours of service in Japan to date. The Church of Jesus Christ continues to give aid in Japan.
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints responded to the famine in east Africa by committing $2.25 million in support of relief efforts. The Church partnered with Islamic Relief, International Medical Corps, International Relief and Development and other organizations to provide food, clean water and medical supplies.
- After a rash of violent tornadoes in the United States, the Church of Jesus Christ provided relief in 8 states, with 5,000 Latter-day Saint volunteers helping with cleanup efforts.
- In response to flooding in Thailand, church members in Thailand assembled food kits, sanitation kits, blankets, clothes and other relief items for those affected by the floods.
- In response to Hurricane Irene in the U.S., the Church provided 120 tons of relief supplies and 50,000 hours of service from more than 7,000 Church volunteers and missionaries.
In late January 2012 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes erroneously called the “Mormon Church,” opened a huge bishop’s storehouse in West Salt Lake City, Utah, as reported in the Deseret News. A Bishop’s Storehouse is similar to a general store supplied with food and basic needs for the poor and needy members of the LDS Church. The Church of Jesus Christ has a remarkable welfare program based on self-reliance that has been studied and used as an example by leaders all over the world.
This new bishop’s storehouse has 570,391 square feet and will also be used as a staging point for humanitarian aid shipped out worldwide when disasters strike. The Church of Jesus Christ has its own farms, orchards, vineyards, dairies, and ranches, and canneries operated by Mormon volunteers. The products from these concerns stock the shelves of bishop’s storehouses around the world, and fill boxes that stand ready to ship out for humanitarian aid.
The new facility in Salt Lake City has the capacity to store 65,000 pallets of food and supplies. The building was constructed for a single purpose — to enable the bishops of the church to meet the needs of the poor and needy.
The massive structure replaces the previous Bishops’ Central Storehouse, located on 1600 Wallace Road, and was paid for with LDS Church fast offering funds, which are earmarked to help those in need.
Ground was broken on the facility May 18, 2010, and construction began in July of that year. The facility, completed Oct. 7, 2011, was dedicated by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the LDS Church’s First Presidency.
The facility will be the central hub of the Church of Jesus Christ’s welfare efforts.
The facility also includes Deseret Transportation — which utilizes 43 tractors and 98 trailers and logs about 3.5 million miles per year delivering goods to some 110 church storehouses across the United States and Canada.
The storehouse includes a bulk storage area, rack storage and 63,000 square feet of freezer and cooler space that is humidity-controlled. The storehouse and preparedness system of the LDS Church is so efficient, that supplies can go out during the first incoming emergency phone call and be gone before the parties hang up. For example,
After Hurricane Katrina struck the southern United States in 2005, the LDS church staged fully loaded semi-trucks from Texas to South Carolina. When the storm hit New Orleans, the emergency supplies were on site within 24 hours. Another 450 semi-trucks filled with food, water and other needed items were sent to the disaster zone from the Bishops’ Central Storehouse in Salt Lake City in the weeks after the emergency.
Eight months after the earthquake and tsunami hit in Japan, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently called by friends of other faiths, the “Mormon Church”) contributed donations to the fishermen of Kuji and the small village of Noda Mura in Japan.
The fisherman in those cities were devastated when the tsunami destroyed almost all of their equipment. The Church donated “three trucks, 4,500 nets, 3,000 octopus cages and various other fishing supplies to the local fishermen’s cooperative” to the city of Kuji, and “trucks with refrigeration equipment and fish tanks, a fork lift, a large-volume digital scale and 70 large containers for hauling the day’s catch” in Noda Mura. In Kuji, the head of the fisherman’s co-op, Kenichiro Saikachi, thanked the Church saying, “For us who received the shock of this great disaster, the donation today from your church is a reassuring act of kindness.” This is a part of the ongoing effort of the Church in contributing to the welfare of those affected by the disaster in Japan. “Both the mayor and the head of the co-op were visibly moved by the help they had received from people they were not aware of before the earthquake and tsunami.”
To read the full story, please visit the official Mormon news website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Learn more about the Church humanitarian aid program.
In March 2011 northern Japan suffered from a devastating 9.0 earthquake with resulting tsunami that obliterated coastal cities as far as 6 miles inland. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a pattern for mobilizing humanitarian aid. Because the LDS Church is so organized on the ground in regional congregations with neighborhood structures, area structures, etc., there is always a pattern in place for accounting for members, citizens of all faiths, and for getting information to Salt Lake City to initiate aid.
The Mormon missionaries in the Japan Sendai Mission were attending a “Zone Conference” thirty-five miles inland during the quake and tsunami. No LDS missionaries were hurt (over 100 were serving in the area). Five days after the earthquake and tsunami, local church leaders were able to account for all members except for one geographical congregation (called a ward) and two smaller congregations, called branches. To that point, no loss of life among Mormon Church members had been discovered.
There are about 50 LDS meetinghouses in the area, and about half sustained damage. By five days after the disaster, local leaders, working day and night, had examined all of the buildings but one and had found all of them habitable as community shelters for survivors.
Missionaries had been moved out of devastated areas and out of range of radiation contamination from damaged nuclear plants. Local leaders were helping to assess how best to get humanitarian aid into the needy areas of Japan, and Mormons around the world were asking how they can help.
Donations to the LDS relief effort can be made at lds.org. The Church also currently has a great need for donated home-made quilts, the specs for which can be found on the humanitarian aid link on lds.org. Quilts are especially needed in twin and full sizes in cotton or cotton/polyester blend fabrics.
The following press conference reveals how actions procede when disaster strikes:
Humanitarian Aid to Japan — Update, March 31,2011
LDS Welfare Services Humanitarian Response provided the following update at the end of March, 2011.
- Deaths — over 11,000 confirmed
- Missing — over 17,000
- Buildings damaged or destroyed — about 143,000
- Damages are expected to be valued at over $300 billion, making this the most expensive disaster in history
- Nuclear pollution remains a threat with contamination still being contained
- Number of people still in shelters — about 180,000
- Between 40 and 60 Mormon families have lost their homes, or their homes are uninhabitable; all missionaries are safe; all members accounted for are safe
- 23 Mormon Church buildings have suffered some sort of damage
- The LDS Church has supplied over 70 tons of relief supplies: food, water, blankets, bedding, hygiene kits, clothing and fuel
- The Church has provided scooters for representatives to reach areas unreachable by cars
- Service projects to assemble and distribute aid have been organized in Japanese stakes, wards and branches
- Over 40,000 hours of labor have been donated by 4,000 volunteers
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is providing approximately 400,000 pounds of supplies to support relief efforts in flood-ravaged areas of Pakistan. These supplies include food items (rice, beans, Atmit and powdered milk), hygiene kits, handmade quilts and medical supplies. 
Islamic Relief USA will handle shipping and on-the-ground distribution. According to the United Nations, there are more than 8 million people in immediate need of urgent care in Pakistan. Millions of people are displaced, their homes destroyed; they are hungry and in need of medical supplies and hygiene kits. The U.N. calls the floods one of the worst humanitarian disasters in U.N. history. Hospitals and clinics have been destroyed along with people’s homes.
Handmade quilts are provided to LDS Humanitarian Aid efforts by members of the Mormon Church. The Church provides the specifications for quilts of different sizes, including baby quilts. Some members create quilts at home according to the specifications and do so on an ongoing basis. Other members, especially under the auspices of the Relief Society, gather together at meeting houses to work on quilting projects for charity and disaster relief. Members donate the materials and perform the labor of love. Extra effort is invested in making the quilts as beautiful as they are functional.
Update — September 16, 2010
The Daily Times (“A New Voice for Pakistan”) Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, Hussain Haqqani, flew to Salt Lake City, Utah, to meet with LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson and to deliver a personal thank-you for the $3 million worth of aid provided to Pakistan for relief efforts after the devastating flood. Ambassador Haqqani praised the work of the Church in support of suffering humanity as an inspiring example for others. The Pakistani diplomat said, “It (aid for flood victims) symbolises the fact that the people of all faiths can work together and need to strengthen each other in times of humanitarian crisis.” He emphasized that, “Of the 20 million affected, eight million are children, and 800,000 to a million are expecting mothers.” He also issued a plea for donations to the people of Utah and the U.S.