The Sri Lankan armed forces opened fire to stop the riots at one of the gas stations. Unprecedented queues for gasoline and diesel fuel are observed across the bankrupt country, reports France-Presse (AFP) today.
Soldiers opened fire in the town of Wisuwamadu, 365 kilometers north of the Sri Lankan capital Colombo, on Saturday evening when stones were thrown at their guard post, a military spokesman said. Nilanta Premaratne.
“A group of 20-30 people threw stones and damaged an army truck,” he told AFP.
According to local police, four civilians and three soldiers were wounded after the military opened fire for the first time to quell unrest associated with a sharp deterioration in the economic situation in the island nation. When gasoline ran out at the gas station, motorists began to protest, and the situation escalated into a clash with the troops, the Interior Ministry explained.
Collisions involving drivers occurred over the weekend at three locations. At least six police officers were injured in one collision and seven motorists were arrested.
The authorities sent additional forces to guard gas stations.
In April, police shot and killed a motorist in the central city of Rambukkana when a fight erupted over rationed petrol and diesel fuel.
Sri Lanka is experiencing its worst economic crisis since independence in 1948, with the country unable to find hard currency to import essentials including food, fuel and medicine. The population of 22 million is suffering from acute shortages and long lines for scarce goods, while the president Gotabaya Rajapaksa resisted calls to resign for several months.
The Sri Lankan government earlier announced a two-week closure of government offices and schools to reduce commuting and keep the impoverished country’s dwindling fuel supplies. The republic in South Asia is also facing record high inflation and prolonged power outages, which have contributed to months of protests.
Four out of five people in Sri Lanka have started skipping meals because they can’t afford to eat, UN experts said this month, warning of a looming “terrible humanitarian crisis.” Last Thursday, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) began distributing food stamps to about 2,000 pregnant women in “underserved” areas of Colombo as part of “aid to save lives.” WFP is trying to raise $60 million for emergency food aid between June and December.
Sri Lanka defaulted on its $51 billion foreign debt in April and is in talks with the International Monetary Fund for bailouts, AFP recalls.