Sri Lanka

New Delhi: Sri Lanka, hit by a massive economic crisis, has run out of fuel and only essential services will operate starting midnight, ND TV reported.  

The Sri Lanka government has decided to close schools in Colombo and order government employees to work from home, while troops handed tokens to people lining up for petrol to keep their places in the queue.

The list of essential services will include health, law and order, ports, airport, food distribution and agriculture.

“From midnight today, no fuel will be sold except for essential services like the health sector, because we want to conserve the little reserves we have,” a news agency quoted government spokesman Bandula Gunawardana as saying.

This is the first time the island nation of 22 million people has run out of fuel. Since the beginning of this year, the price of fuel has jumped five-fold. The last price hike took place yesterday.

The price of diesel is retailing at 460 Lankan rupee and petrol retailing at 550 per litre.

Industries like garments, a big dollar earner in the Indian Ocean nation, are left with fuel for only about a week to 10 days. Public transport, power generation and medical services will get priority in fuel distribution, with some rationed to ports and airports.

“I have been in line for four days, I haven’t slept or eaten properly during this time,” said autorickshaw driver W.D. Shelton, 67, one of those who received a token meant to hold his place in the queue for when fuel becomes available.

“We can’t earn, we can’t feed our families,” added Shelton, who was 24th in line at a fuel station in the centre of Colombo, but set to stay there as he had no petrol for the journey to his home just 5 km (3 miles) away.

There is no clarity on new shipments of oil, the Sri Lankan energy minister has confirmed and urged citizens not to queue up at fuel stations.

A shipment was supposed to arrive today, but suppliers have expressed their inability to deliver, citing non-commitment of payments and logistic issues.

No further shipments have been scheduled as the country has run out of dollars.

As per reports, Lankan ministers will travel to Russia and Qatar to discuss more fuel for the country in the coming days. The International Monetary Fund is in Sri Lanka for talks on a possible bailout package.

Sri Lanka has been reeling under its biggest economic crisis since its Independence in 1948 and has failed to finance the import of food, medicines or fuel since late last year.

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