12:30 p.m. local time (8:30 a.m. GMT)
Authorities here say they're trying to assess the extent of the theft and damage from that armored raid by drunken soldiers on the Nikora meat-processing plant (see this morning's post).
The port itself seems to be lurching back to life, with scheduled arrivals by cargo ships resuming. Today there are containers of scrap metal, timber and aluminum sheeting, ceramic plates, and manganese arriving at the docks. (But things aren't normal enough to have my own photos, so the image above is from my Georgian photojournalist colleague, Lasha Zarginava.)
People here are eagerly awaiting the arrival of humanitarian aid, including from two U.S. Navy ships bound for Poti. International news agencies have quoted the U.S. Embassy as saying that aid will arrive by tomorrow. Slightly more cautiously, the spokesman for the port authority here, Gocha Lemonjava, tells me that it could take two or three more days.
I visited an outdoor market today and met a lot of villagers from nearby areas with goods on offer: fruits, vegetables, and what not. Prices don't seem to be inflated, either. Signs of normality, really.
I was curious to find out whether Poti's banks are operating normally. They certainly look like it -- their doors are open and bank machines are on. Business as usual, at first glance. When I went in one (a branch of People's Bank), though, an employee told me that the bank's not considering any loan requests. Before I could jump to any conclusions, the employee quickly added that this was the case even before this conflict broke out. I don't know.
When I went to a branch of another bank, TBC (which is among the country's biggest privately held banks, with an IFC stake), they said the same thing. But they also said they would resume lending on September 8. (I don't know if that has anything to do with the end of the state of emergency, which was prolonged on August 23.) Pensions are being paid out to retirees; I saw quite a few people lined up at the bank windows, but that's nothing usual on the days those payments arrive even in "normal" times.
In shops, everyone is of course discussing the Russians being here. But, to me, it's odd to see that people seem to be somehow living normal, everyday lives and getting used to the Russians' presence. I can't really explain it. I suppose it could be that the shock of the aerial bombardment was so great that people in Poti feel relieved, even though the Russians are still here.