Puri: It has weathered many storms but this time around, Rail Heritage Hotel Chanakya BNR couldn’t brave it. Cyclone Fani, the strongest cyclone to hit the Odisha coast in the last 20 years packing wind speeds over 200 kmph proved to be a formidable opponent and ravaged the 1925-built heritage property. Photographs of the sand-covered beach road that leads to the hotel have gone viral on social media as a mute testimony to what happened on May 3. All that remains of the hotel are the main structure and a few doors.
“All the doors are broken, all the louvers, the wooden flooring has been destroyed, almost all the air conditioners have been damaged,” said Srikanta Moitra, resident manager of the hotel. “There is nothing left of the banquet hall. The roof, which was metal along with the false ceiling and AC ducts underneath just flew away,” he added. Most of the lighting fixtures are broken as well, informed Moitra.
Moitra said it is a miracle that he and his staff have survived mainly because they locked themselves in the bathroom.
With lack of electricity and water and shortage of manpower proving to be an impediment, it will be quite some time, before this hotel, which takes pride in hosting the likes of former US First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and former West Bengal Chief Minister Siddharth Shankar Ray, will stand tall once again.
In fact it is the 500 odd beach-facing hotels in the temple that have borne the maximum brunt of the cyclone. “The windows of almost all the hotels lie shattered. The properties are completely damaged with sea-water seeping in and damaging everything,” said a hotel owner.
According to sources, the collective damage to hotels in Puri could be to the tune of Rs 2000 crore not to add the loss incurred due to cancelled bookings both before and after the cyclone. Tourism, the mainstay of the temple has been hit hard. Most hotel owners see bleak prospects of a restored order before the Jagannath Yatra in the next two months.
Meanwhile, Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has written to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley requesting a rebuilding scheme with special interest rates to help hotels in Puri.