Lanka grinds to a halt as fuel reserves shrink
July 04 2022 12:39 AM
Sri Lanka
(File photo)

AFP/Reuters/ Colombo

Sri Lanka has less than a day’s worth of fuel left, the energy minister said yesterday, with public transport grinding to a halt as the country’s economic crisis deepened.
Petrol and diesel queues snaked through the capital for kilometres, though most pumping stations have been without fuel for days.
Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said petrol reserves in the country were about 4,000 tonnes, just below one day’s worth of consumption.
“The next petrol shipment is expected between July 22 and July 23,” Wijesekera told reporters in Colombo.
“We have contacted other suppliers, but we can’t confirm any new supplies before July 22.”
Wijesekera said new fuel shipments were being lined up but the country is struggling to raise enough funds to pay as the central bank can supply only about $125mn.
“This week we will need $316mn to pay for new shipments. If we add two crude oil shipments this amount shoots up to $587mn,” Wijesekera said.
Plans to settle the $800mn owed to seven suppliers for purchases made this year were being discussed, he said.
Last week, cash-strapped Sri Lanka announced a two-week halt to all fuel sales except for essential services to save petrol and diesel for emergencies.
Most shops were closed yesterday, with the situation expected to worsen when banks and offices reopen today.
Desperate people were seen trying to flag down the few vehicles on the road hoping for a ride.
Privately owned buses, which account for two-thirds of the country’s fleet, said they operated a skeleton service yesterday as they were badly affected by the fuel shortage.
“We operated about 1,000 buses across the country out of the 20,000 owned by our members,” Private Bus Operators Association chairman Gemunu Wijeratne said.
“The situation will certainly get worse tomorrow because we have no way of getting diesel.”
He said services would be curtailed further today and saw no immediate solution.
Three-wheel taxis — a popular last-mile transport — were also off the streets, with most seen in days-long queues to get a ration of six litres of petrol.
A shortage of foreign currency to finance even the most essential imports has led to the country’s worst economic crisis, with its 22mn people facing severe hardships daily.

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