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Two known deaths, some Church buildings condemned

At least two Church members died when Hurricane Katrina ravaged the United States' Gulf Coast, leaving thousands of people in Mississippi and Louisiana dead and forcing one million more from their homes.

Terrence and Christina Shields of the Waveland Ward, Gulfport Mississippi Stake, died in the massive storm. Other Church members from the Gulf Coast are still not accounted for, according to a Church Welfare report.

Because of the magnitude of the storm and the massive evacuations, only 70 percent of the members of the Gulfport Mississippi and the Slidell Louisiana stakes have been accounted for. Leaders of the New Orleans stake had accounted for approximately 50 percent of their members as of press time Sept. 8. Missionaries, evacuated before the storm hit, are safe and helping with relief efforts.

The hurricane, dubbed by some as "the storm that destroyed everything," is being called one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history.

Katrina came ashore in New Orleans, La., early Aug. 29 as a Category 4 storm with winds of 145 mph. The hurricane then moved through Mississippi and Alabama, leaving total destruction in its wake. It may be months before evacuated residents can return home. Hundreds of Latter-day Saint homes have been destroyed.

Katrina also left more than 1 million people without power.

As of press time, several meetinghouses in the New Orleans Stake were still submerged. In addition, the Pascagoula, Miss., building — which sustained serious damage — was condemned by the state, according to the welfare report.

Still, many LDS meetinghouses throughout the area were not damaged and are now being used as shelters for members and others, and are points of distribution for food commodities and other supplies.

In the days after the disaster, the Church sent more than 50 semi-truckloads of commodities and relief supplies to the bishops' storehouse and meetinghouses in the affected area, said Kevin Nield, director of Bishops' Storehouse Services. Another 30 trucks were sent to replenish storehouses.

In addition, the Church provided supplies and volunteer assistance for evacuees in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, Utah and Idaho.

In the affected areas, Church volunteers worked the first weekend in September. More than 12,000 volunteers are being organized to assist in the area during the next four weeks.

The Church is making "a great impact," said Nate Leishman of Church Emergency Response. Members are also working with "local agencies in the area to distribute food items and provide assistance and labor and to help where needed," he said.