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Tallying Losses And Avoiding Trip Wires

11 p.m. local time (7 p.m. GMT)

I've been doing some research before what I hope is a visit to the main port tomorrow. The port authority tells me the facility is currently operating at about one-third of its usual capacity. Shipments have plummeted, and they say that as a result the port has suffered a loss of around $2 million -- a number that mounts by the hour. They estimate the bombardment took about a $270,000 toll on equipment and machinery. Georgian-Turkish oil company Channel Energy has claimed about $1.1 million in damage, mostly to its oil reservoirs. A full assessment of the damages and losses suffered by the port hasn't emerged.

I asked why no de-mining units have arrived in Poti yet, considering the situation at the military port in particular (see my previous entry). I was told that the authorities have refrained from bringing them in because such a move might antagonize the Russian forces that still control land access to the town. As soon as the Russians leave, they said, those sappers will arrive and intense de-mining work will begin. Apart from the military port, there are also other areas that officials think are mined -- including the military base and the coast guard facility. Also, the sites of the Russians' current checkpoints will presumably be mined.

It's another hot summer night in Poti. The sea is calm after some morning rain. There is virtually no one on the streets. Time passes, and the Russians stay where they are.

Overall, though, Poti's residents are still under enormous stress; they talk about panicking at the sound of passing trucks. Many residents appear impatient; some have even begun to wonder whether the Russians will ever leave. Others are afraid they'll stay here for months. There are still optimists, too, of course, and some who think the Russians might even withdraw tonight.