Auto-rickshaw driver dies in petrol queue as energy crisis worsens in Sri Lanka

Another 64-year-old man died while waiting in a queue for cooking gas at Pugoda, northwest of Colombo on June 15 night, police said

June 16, 2022 04:24 pm | Updated 04:24 pm IST - Colombo

Sri Lankan auto rickshaw drivers queue up to buy petrol near a fuel station in Colombo, Sri Lanka. File

Sri Lankan auto rickshaw drivers queue up to buy petrol near a fuel station in Colombo, Sri Lanka. File | Photo Credit: AP

A 53-year-old auto-rickshaw driver in Sri Lanka died of a heart attack on June 16 in Colombo’s suburb while waiting in a serpentine queue for fuel for the entire night near a petrol pump, becoming the latest victim, as the fuel crisis in the island nation worsened.

People have left their vehicles for over two nights near filling stations as mostly diesel supplies have dried while long queues remain for petrol supplies.

The three-wheeler driver had been waiting in line for fuel since June 15 night in the Colombo south suburb of Panadura and he succumbed to cardiac arrest inside his vehicle, authorities said.

This is not the first time a person died while waiting in line for fuel in Sri Lanka. Similar incidents were reported since the beginning of 2022, as some died of heat exhaustion.

Another 64-year-old man died while waiting in a queue for cooking gas at Pugoda, northwest of Colombo on June 15 night, police said.

The State fuel entity Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) said the final shipment of diesel under the existing Indian Line of Credit (ILC) of $700 million for fuel arrived on Thursday. However, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the issues would be based on a priority for essential services.

The unloading of this shipment would take three more days to complete. He was hopeful that another ILC for $500 million would be made available by India very soon. However there was no news on the arrival of the last of the petrol shipments due under the ILC, CPC officials said.

Agitated over waiting for long hours at fuel lines, Sri Lankans have blocked roads in protest in many areas.

Lack of fuel has crippled the public transport services by over 50%, the National Transport Commission announced.

The railways department said the services would be crippled soon as it was unable to pay for the engine oil needed to operate the power sets due to the ongoing dollar shortage.

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

The economic crisis has prompted an acute shortage of essential items like food, medicine, cooking gas and other fuel, toilet paper, and even matchsticks.

The country is experiencing long queues for refuelling at pumping stations as the government finds it difficult to finance fuel imports to retain a reserve adequate for a minimum of three months.

A move to ration fuel is to be implemented from next month as the Forex crisis gets worsened.

The nearly bankrupt country, with an acute foreign currency crisis that resulted in foreign debt default, announced in April that it is suspending nearly $7 billion foreign debt repayment due for this year out of about $25 billion due through 2026. Sri Lanka’s total foreign debt stands at $51 billion.

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