Vol. 5 Num 1077 Tue. June 12, 2007  
Front Page

Businesses come to a rain halt

The wheel of economy in the port city of Chittagong came to a grinding halt due to heavy rainfall yesterday with vessel operations and loading-unloading at the premier port of the country being suspended following heavy waterlogging on the port premises.

The inclement weather also took a heavy toll on the export oriented industry and the food warehouses of the city.

According to sources, operation of the Chittagong port stopped in the morning then resumed at noon for some time just to be suspended again in the afternoon with the onset of a heavy downpour again.

The operation of the exclusive Chittagong Container Terminal (CCT) stopped in the afternoon as the entire computer network collapsed due to the downpour, said a high official of Saif Powertec, the private operator of the terminal.

"The situation is very bad, we remained stuck in a small room the whole day due to heavy rain outside," he said adding that movement of containers at the jetty and delivery of goods from the port were severely hampered since morning.

The operation of the new mooring container terminal (NCT) also stopped in the evening while handling of containers and bulk operation at all general berths had been suspended since morning.

The four sophisticated quay gantry cranes at CCT started to operate in the morning at a very slow pace until completely stopping in the evening, the Powetc official said. The port also remained in dark due to a power outage.

The low lying places within the jetty area were inundated.

Operations of vessels carrying break bulk cargoes were also suspended as many sheds were inundated by rainwater and since the hatches of the vessels could not be opened due to the rain.

Inundation of the cargo sheds roused a fear of damaged cargoes including those which are inside containers.

Many export-import business people fear a great loss due to cancellations of shipments.

"With Shed No 9 remaining under a foot and a half of water we are fearing heavy damage to the cargoes," said Shiba Prashad Dey, chief operation manager of TNT Freight Management.

"Although the containers are watertight, still we are afraid of the cargoes inside getting damaged as water might seep in if there is a leak in any of them," he said.

"We fear failing to meet the shipment deadlines as the operations are being seriously hindered inside the port where scheduled departures and arrivals of vessels could not take place," he added.

Rainwater also about to enter the multi-purpose berth (MPB) yard and if the one-stop service centre gets inundated it will surely damage import items causing an irreparable loss, said sources.

Port sources however said the MPB yard did not get flooded, and claimed that they were trying to keep the situation under control.

Strong current of water in the Karnaphuli channel also hampered movement of vessels at the port, sources said.

Most of the city areas also went under knee-deep to waist-deep water inundating mills and factories in industrial areas, hitting Kalurghat, Nasirabad and Sagarika areas the hardest.

The rain and inundation forced total suspension of production on more than 80 percent of the factories of the 100 percent export oriented garments industry in Chittagong, said Bangladesh Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association's (BGMEA) 1st Vice-president MA Salam.

Inundation of garments factories and damage to machineries and raw materials were reported from different places, he said.

"We have yet to assess the actual extent of the damage and financial losses the natural calamity has brought to us," said the BGMEA leader.

"However, we will be able to ascertain the damage and losses, which might amount to lakhs of taka, and will try to work out ways and means to survive through such disasters in the future," he added.

"We haven't seen a natural calamity causing such an extensive loss and hindering business activities in such a way since the cyclone in 1991," said Salam.

He blamed unplanned urbanisation, severe degradation of the landscape and consequent collapse of the drainage system for the waterlogging and inundation.

The rain inundated three industrial units in Nasirabad Industrial Area -- Clifton Apparels, Clifton Textile, and Deluxe Fashion -- causing Clifton Group to suffer a heavy loss.

"Rainwater submerged raw-materials of Tk 3 crore and valuable machineries worth Tk 20 crore in the three factories," said Farhad Gani, an official of Clifton Group.

"We were preparing for a large shipment due next month when the flooding started dealing a serious blow to us," Gani added.

Most factories and industrial units located in Nasirabad and Sagorika areas also suffered financial losses due to inundations, sources said.

Rainwater also flooded warehouses of wholesale commodity markets at Khatunganj, Chaktai and Asadganj.

It is feared that the inundation will damage a large quantity of daily essentials like rice, pulse and sugar that were stored in the warehouses, causing a loss of several crores of taka.

Sagir Ahmed, a leader of Khatunganj Baboshayee Samity, said business activities came to a total halt at traditional business centres and they fear a huge damage to goods as many of the warehouses were flooded with knee-high to waist-high water.

Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) President Saifuzzaman Chowdhury strongly criticised Chittagong City Corporation for its failure to maintain an effective drainage system in the city.

Apart from its failure to dredge the Chaktai canal it also indulged in constructions of a huge number of structures blocking roads and drains resulting in inundations, landslides and ultimately loss of lives and properties, alleged the CCCI president.