Vanuatu’s Cyclone Lola response faces transport roadblocks with the country’s patrol boat out of action after it was damaged from twin cyclones Kevin and Judy in March.

The ship, RVS Tachouare, is currently in Australia getting repaired.

Vanuatu Helicopters also sent back its helicopters to Australia last year.

Prime Minister Charlot Salwai admitted that a lack of government transport will hamper its recovery efforts for the provinces hit hard by tropical cyclone Lola.

“Apart from the current patrol, Vanuatu needs a barge that can directly be beached on the islands,”” Salwai said.

Salwai visited Embrym Island and his constituency of Pentecost Island on Monday, six days after Lola made landfall.

The islands of Torba, Sanma, Penama and Malampa were also badly damaged and are in a state of emergency.

Salwai landed on the two affected islands with a French army helicopter, normally based in New Caledonia.

Salwai said due to limited time they only had two hours to visit the areas between Batnapni and Melsisi, on Pentecost while waiting for the helicopter to move tarpaulins from the western to eastern side of the island.

“The damages caused by Lola is worse than TC Harold in 2020. The food such as taros were badly damaged,” he said.

Salwai said Pentecost is the main producer of kava in the country, for both local consumption and international export, but the plants have been damage by Lola.

“Government through the Ministry of Agriculture has to find a way to help the kava farmers to sell their kava now,” the prime minister said.

“If farmers from Santo Santo and the other islands could stop temporarily selling their kava to enable the farmers on Pentecost to make small earning out of their damaged kava plants, it would help them a lot.”

James Hinge from Save the Children Vanuatu on Pentecost Island said shelter is the “number one priority” for people living on the island.

“All the houses are damaged and when I say damaged it is down to the ground level, nothing is up in the sense of any posts or carpets or local touches, nothing is up.”

Hinge said the priority would change to food when reserves run out. He said the root crop that people eat will likely last about a week from being harvested from the ground.

“After that, we definitely need immediate response from the government as well as the NGOs, to work together on providing something on the ground to these people.”

Hinge said Lola had been one of the most devastating cyclones to ever hit the island.

“This is one of the most frightening experiences they have ever had.

“I spoke to a family where the house was all blown out and they had to just duck under beds to survive the cyclone.”

International Federation of Red Cross Pacific communication manager Soneel Ram said the first shipment of tarpaulins will go to over 2,000 households.

The tarpaulins arrived on Pentecost during the weekend but cannot reach eastern end due damaged roads.

A computing and economics teacher at Ranwadi College on Pentecost, Andrew Gray, said the timing of Lola was “unusually bad” because it came just before students were due to sit their final exams.

More than 15,000 Vanuatu students’ in Penama province have had their education disrupted from buildings being destroyed.

“Schools are left with damaged classrooms and other damaged facilities trying their best,” Gray said.

“The order we received from the government is to prioritise exam classes.”

Gray said students due to sit exams have been asked to return to school this week.

Five out of 30 classrooms had roofs ripped off and are out of action, he said.

The college is a boarding school and Gray said they were fortunate the dormitories and kitchen were still intact.

“Students will have food and shelter if they do come back, which is the most important thing. It’s just a question of how we deliver education with so many classrooms out of action.

“The government is putting schools under pressure to try continue education in some form up to the official end of term.

“It will be much better a lot of us feel to just accept that this school year is finished except for students with final exams and try and focus on catching up at the start of the next school year,” he said.