Cyclone Phailin, which hit the Odisha coast on Saturday night and displaced nearly a million people, has also dealt a blow to the port operations at Gopalpur and the livelihood of locals dependent on it.
The all-weather direct berthing port, which began operations only in March and employed around 5,000 local villagers on a contractual basis, has suffered losses of up to Rs 200 crore.
“After a preliminary survey, we have estimated losses of Rs 200 crore. But the overall cost to restore the port is likely to be four times this figure,” said port director MM Moharana.
He said though the port staff had taken precautionary measures and removed all movable items before the storm struck, it would take at least 6 to 8 months to resume operations.
Several small vessels anchored at the port were also feared submerged in the sea, said port executive director PK Panigrahi.
“On Saturday, when officials evacuated the port area around 2pm, there were several small vessels of fishermen anchored around 1 to 1.5km away from the shore,” he said.
“After the storm subsided, we could not trace the vessels. We fear they may have been submerged.”
Besides, the cyclonic storm has brought several stones and boulders from the middle of the sea to the shore, he said.
“It is, therefore, difficult for us to salvage the remains of the vessels from the debris. We are unable to determine how much of the wreckage is stones and how much the remains of vessels.”
The port is a public-private partnership project between the Odisha government and Gopalpur Ports Limited.
Before the all-weather port came up, the old port at Gopalpur was only a midstream-anchorage port where big vessels used to offload their cargo and which operated from March to October.
When the new port began operations in March, about 80% of its construction work in the first phase was over.
However, it employed 4,888 local villagers as contractual workers, besides 500 permanent employees.
This year, the port was to carry out exports and imports of 2.5 million tonnes of goods. But it had only carried out exports of around 1.5 million tonnes so far.
The exports include minerals and sand, while committed imports include industrial salt and lime powder.
A motorcyclist rides past fallen traffic signal poles during Cyclone Phailin at a road crossing in Berhampur. (AP Photo)
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