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Two more die in Lanka waiting in queue for petrol, gas: Toll 10; Schools, offices closed

The economic crisis due to depletion of foreign exchange arising out of a massive debt servicing has led to the acute shortage of essential items like food, medicine, cooking gas, petrol and diesel and other items of daily use. The Government is unable to pay for imports for want of foreign exchange. Lanka depends on imports for most requirements, the basic source of revenue being only tea and tourism, which was crippled during the covid pandemic. The crisis is likely to worsen in the coming weeks. Protests are continuing.

COLOMBO, June 17: Two more people died in Lanka on Thursday standing in frighteningly long queues for petrol, gas and kerosene, taking the number of deaths in the race for fuel in various parts of a crisis-ridden Lanka to 10. Stressed out, they died of heat exhaustion or cardiac failure standing in serpentine queues.

There were protests across Lanka at filling stations on Friday too over unnending queues and the Government decision to allocate separate queues for essential service vehicles like the police. Unabated protests against shortages also continue to block roads across the country.

The Government has ordered its one million employees to work from home for two weeks as it grapples with the fuel crisis. The Education Ministry also said all schools have been asked to remain closed for two weeks from Monday.

Leader of the Opposition Sajith Premadasa said on Friday that the only option to save the country from the current "man-made catastrophe" is an election.

Of the two who died on Thursday waiting in the queue for fuel since Wednesday evening was a three-wheeler driver. He was found dead on Thursday morning in front of the Wekada filling station in a Panadura locality of Kalutara district in western Lanka, 27 km south of Colombo.

A father of three, Upali the driver (53) had his dinner with another three-wheeler driver standing in the queue, it was learnt. He was a resident of Visal Uyana, Panadura. He had been waiting in the queue for fuel at the filling station since 7 pm Wednesday.

In the second instance of the day, a man was found lying dead near a cooking gas outlet In Pugoda, Gampaha.

Eight other people had died earlier also standing in queue at other places like Kadawatha and Kandy for petrol,gas and kerosene as shortages of food and fuel became very acute due to an economic crisis gripping the island leading to stoppage import of essential items like rice. Kerosene became a sought after commodity as cooking gas was not available. As crude stocks ran out, petrol also became costly and unavailable.

Meanwhile, the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) said an Indian diesel shipment of $700 million arrived on Thursday but it would take three days for unloading. The new Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said priority in allotment will be for essential services. The Government is awaiting one more Indian shipment of $500 million.

The country is facing shortages of every single essential item and soaring prices for the past three to four months. People stay in queues for more than ten hours for petrol, affecting transportation of goods.

The shortage of food, fuel, medicine and electricity has led to a total economic collapse. Violent protests are the order of the day. A new Government has taken over but there is little relief for the people. The crisis stemmed from excessive borrowing made by the Government from international markets, more than what it can repay. The country depends on imports for essential goods and they have stopped because there is no foreign exchange left to make payments.

Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis since its independence from Britain in 1948.

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