Crisis-hit Sri Lanka runs out of diesel
Diesel was no longer on sale across Sri Lanka on Thursday, crippling transport as the crisis-hit country’s 22 million people suffer record-breaking power outages.
The South Asian nation is experiencing its worst economic downturn since independence, brought on by an acute lack of foreign exchange to pay for even the most essential imports.
Diesel – the main fuel for buses and utility vehicles – was not available at stations on the island, according to officials and media.
Gasoline was on sale but in short supply, forcing motorists to abandon their cars in long queues.
“We are siphoning off fuel from buses that are in the garage for repairs and using that diesel to run roadworthy vehicles,” Transport Minister Dilum Amunugama said.
Owners of private buses – which make up two-thirds of the country’s fleet – said they were already running low on oil and even skeleton services may not be possible after Friday.
“We are still using old stocks of diesel, but if we don’t have supplies by tonight we won’t be able to operate,” the president of the association of private bus operators, Gemunu, told AFP. Wijeratne.
The state-owned electricity monopoly said it would be forced to impose a 1 p.m. blackout from Thursday – the longest on record – because it had no diesel for generators.
“We are promised new supplies in two days and if that happens we can reduce the duration of power cuts,” Ceylon Electricity Board chairman MMC Ferdinando told reporters.
He said hydroelectric reservoirs, which provide more than a third of electricity demand, were also dangerously low.
Long power cuts forced the Colombo Stock Exchange to limit trading from half to two hours, while many offices asked non-essential staff to stay home.
Electricity rationing has also hit mobile phone base stations and affected call quality, operators said, adding that their backup generators were also diesel-free.
The shortages have sparked outrage across Sri Lanka, with local television reporting protests across the country as hundreds of motorists block major roads in several towns.
Several public hospitals halted surgeries as they ran out of essential life-saving drugs, while most halted diagnostic tests that require imported chemicals that are in short supply.
Colombo imposed a broad import ban in March 2020 in a bid to save the foreign exchange needed to service its $51 billion foreign debt.
But it has led to widespread shortages of essential goods and steep price hikes.
The government said it was seeking a bailout from the International Monetary Fund while asking for more loans from India and China.
Sri Lanka’s predicament has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has torpedoed tourism and remittances.
Many economists also blame government mismanagement, including tax cuts and years of budget deficits.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)