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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended June 18, 2000
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church
Sent on Mormon-News: 14Jun00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Four Days Later, Solomon Islands Missionaries Arrive in Australia
Sydney Australia Morning Herald 14Jun00 N1
By Greg Roberts

CAIRNS, AUSTRALIA -- The LDS Missionaries evacuated from the Solomon Islands arrived in Cairns, Australia yesterday after three days at sea, according to this report in the Sydney Morning Herald. The report says that the missionaries boarded the HMAS Tobruk at the Honiara Yacht Club Thursday night, along with 458 other evacuees on the Australian Navy vessel. The evacuees included 140 children.

The evacuation was prompted by a coup attempt in the Solomon Islands' capital, Honoria on June 5th. A militia called the Malaita Eagle Force kidnapped Bartholomew Ulufa'alu, the Solomon Islands' prime minister, in a move that seems to copy the recent coup attempt in Fiji, which also led the Church to evacuate missionaries, but in that case only to the other side of the island.

But many of the evacuees were critical of the Australian government's strategy to remove them from the Islands, but they also praised the efforts of the sailors that rescued them. "We had crusty old lieutenant-commanders on their hands and knees drawing pictures on the deck with the kids," said the ship's skipper, Commander Vinn Thompson. "The crew had to learn how to sterilise babies' bottles and make up baby food."

The evacuees were from 32 different nations, only 188 of the 478 were Australian, and, according to the Morning Herald, 20 of the evacuees were LDS missionaries. The voyage was difficult for many on board. Three people had malaria and 80 per cent of the children and 50 percent of the adults were seasick, and some were treated for dehydration. Two of the evacuees, a pregnant woman and a man with an ulcerated leg were taken to the hospital on arrival.

Criticisms of the way the evacuation was handled included the fact that the ship didn't leave the Solomon Islands for 36 hours after they boarded, and the fact that the evacuation was by ship and not by plane. Other evacuees said the evacuation was premature, "None of us believed there was any need to get out," said Mr Stewart Finn, referring to staff of the Woodford International School in Honiara, of which he is principal. "There were incidents, but there was nothing to make you feel you were targetted. The locals felt deserted and disowned when they heard we were going."


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