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LDS missionaries evacuated due to Ebola outbreak safely underway to new assignments

A banner reading 'Lets prevent the spread of Ebola,' in front of the city hall in Monrovia, Liberia, Thursday, July 31, 2014.
A banner reading 'Lets prevent the spread of Ebola,' in front of the city hall in Monrovia, Liberia, Thursday, July 31, 2014.
Jonathan Paye-Layleh, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — All LDS missionaries serving in the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak in west Africa have safely left Sierra Leone and Liberia, according to an update released Wednesday by the church.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Friday that it was evacuating 274 missionaries serving in those two nations. The missionaries are being transferred to new assignments in other countries.

The update said many of the missionaries will be traveling over the next few days and will call their families when they arrive in their new locations.

Three missionaries with calls to serve in Sierra Leone and Liberia were being trained at the church's missionary training center in Ghana. They, too, will be reassigned, as will those with mission calls to the area who had not yet reached an MTC.

The news that the missionaries departed safely comes as the World Health Organization considered declaring an international public health emergency, the New York Times reported. The WHO released a report Wednesday that said it now has documented 1,711 case of Ebola virus disease and 932 deaths.

The LDS Church has 13,078 members and 30 congregations in Sierra Leone. Another 8,081 Latter-day Saints live in Liberia, where there are 22 congregations.

Church spokeswoman Jessica Moody said worship services continued in those areas as usual on Sunday.

Two LDS Church members have died in the outbreak.

Wednesday's release said members there continue to live, worship and serve in both nations, adding that "The church, through its humanitarian programs and partners, is in the process of assessing needs and considering how to best support relief efforts to its members and the people of these countries."

The WHO report on Wednesday documented five new cases in Nigeria. The LDS Church has a strong presence in Nigeria, where 118,139 church members live, more than a quarter of all Latter-day Saints in Africa.

Nigeria also has five Mormon missions, 378 LDS congregations and a temple in Aba.

There also are fears the disease has leapfrogged to Saudi Arabia.