Crisis-hit Sri Lanka almost out of fuel
STORY: In the Sri Lankan capital Colombo, schools have closed their doors and public servants have been asked to work from home.
The island nation of 22 million people is struggling with the worst economic crisis in seven decades.
Foreign exchange reserves are at historic lows and the country is struggling to pay for the necessary imports of food, medicine and, above all, fuel.
At gas stations, troops hand out tokens to those waiting in rapidly growing queues.
Motorist K. Shamugarajan, 49, is one of those who received a token to hold his spot in line when fuel becomes available.
“I've been here since midnight on Friday (June 24). By the time we got here they had stopped pumping gas. I don't know if I can get gas or not. Right now they gave me a token. Even though I got a token I don't know if I'll get gas or if they are trying to scam us. The money I had for gas is gone now. Someone went away and says they're bringing me some money. I can only fill up when he comes back.”
But with no new deliveries due, it's not immediately clear how far the government can stretch its fuel reserves.
On Sunday (June 27), the government announced that the country now uses just 15,000 tons of petrol and diesel to keep essential services running in the coming days.
Despite long queues at gas stations, public transport, power generation and medical services will have priority in fuel distribution.
Ports and airports also receive some rations.
Sri Lanka's Energy and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera has warned the situation could get worse.
“I believe that we have to face various challenges before the financial situation can be overcome. Sometimes we may be able to completely eliminate the fuel queues, other times there will be situations where we cannot stop the queues. I don't think we can reach $550-600 million in the coming months. We definitely need to reduce our consumption to $350 million.”
An International Monetary Fund team is visiting Sri Lanka to hold talks on a $3 billion bailout.
Although the Indian Ocean nation hopes to reach a staff-level agreement before the end of the visit on Thursday (June 30), it is unlikely to free up funds immediately.
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