Temple burns

15 September 2018, 12:00AM

To mark the 40th Anniversary of the Samoa Observer, a series of selected articles printed over the last 40 years will be re-published in the next two weeks, to show our readers the issues covered by this newspaper over the years and the personalities that made the headlines. 

Tragedy for the Mormons

First Published: 10 July 2003


A huge fire destroyed the Mormon Temple at Pesega last night. 

The alarm was raised soon after 7pm. Flames soon lit the Apia sky. 

Parts of the roof collapsed as the fire ate into the building. 

Firefighters from Faleolo International Airport were called in to help firemen from Apia fire station and police officers try to control the inferno. 

The 20-year-old multi-million dollar temple had been under reconstruction since March. It was scheduled to reopen in the first week of October. 

Hundreds gathered outside the temple compound, some shedding tears as the fire spread throughout the temple. 

“Please God help us,” shouted one woman. “This is not happening,” she added as she forced her way through the crowd and into the main ground. 

Others just stood there motionless in disbelief with hands on their faces. 

How the fire started could not be ascertained late last night. 

One of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints missionaries, Elder Haws said it could take a few days before a clearer conclusion could be made. 

Light rain did not stop the fire. It burned its way from the rear of the temple all the way to the front. 

The golden figure atop the temple turned from gold to black. 

It is understood the temple was empty when the fire broke out. 

There were no reports of casualties. Elder Haws said it would cost the church millions of dollars to rebuild. 

Shocked President Daniel Betham was speechless 

The local president of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, Elder Daniel Betham, was in no mood to comment. 

“Sorry, but I don’t think this is the best time to make any comments,” he said. 

His wife, Sister Betham, said: “It’s really shocking. At first I heard popping noises from the temple. I thought workers were still in the temple. I looked out and I saw only smoke. I then called the Police and the fire station for help.” 

Help arrived within 15 to 20 minutes, she said. 

Late last night fire fighters were still battling the blaze. 

Much anticipated grand reopening.

Elder Haws said just yesterday afternoon, a “big meeting” was held inside the temple to discuss events for the reopening. 

“We were all excited about it,” he said. We even talked about having centre spreads in the papers.”

Elder Haws said he noticed heavy smoke coming from the temple at about 7pm. “I was doing some work next door when I noticed smoke,” he said. “But it happened so fast. The fire just broke out so fast. 

“This is very sad for us.”

15 September 2018, 12:00AM

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