Two men died in cash-strapped Sri Lanka on Friday while waiting in serpentine queues to purchase fuel as widespread shortages and soaring inflation levels continue to heap misery on citizens.
The two deaths were reported on a day when newly-elected President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Friday appointed Dinesh Gunawardena as the Prime Minister in a bid to restore political stability and mitigate the worst economic crisis that has virtually bankrupted the island nation.
The 59-year-old man had left his motorcycle for over two nights near a filling station in Kinniya, a town located in Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province, collapsed on Friday, according to the news portal Lanka First.
The victim’s body was shifted to the Kinniya Base Hospital for post-mortem examination, it said.
A 70-year-old man also died after collapsing while waiting in line for fuel at a filling station in Mathugama, in the country’s Western Province.
Fuel was delivered to the filling station after 10 days, and there was a rush to obtain fuel due to the absence of a proper system of distribution, the report said.
The man collapsed during the rush and was admitted to the Meegahatenna Regional Hospital where he was ruled dead upon admission, it added.
This is not the first time that a person has died while waiting for fuel in Sri Lanka.
Similar incidents have been reported since the beginning of 2022, with some even dying of exhaustion brought about by severe heat.
Last week, Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera introduced a National Fuel Pass for the citizens to obtain fuel through regularising distribution, according to the news portal Economy Next.
The new fuel pass will allow each motorist to obtain a minimum quantity of fuel on a weekly basis, Wijesekera said.
Despite these measures, filling stations are going dry and frequent clashes are being witnessed near filling stations across the country.
Sri Lanka received the first of three fuel shipments last week, Wijesekera said, the first shipments to reach the country in about three weeks.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s inflation firmed up in June as the country’s broader measure of consumer prices jumped by 59 percent from a year ago, accelerating from 45.3 percent in May, according to the country’s National Consumer Price Index.
Sri Lanka’s newly-elected President Ranil Wickremesinghe has been leading crucial talks with the International Monetary Fund, last week said that negotiations were nearing conclusion.
Sri Lanka needs about USD 5 billion in the next six months to cover basic necessities for its 22 million people, who have been struggling with long queues, worsening shortages, and power cuts.
(Inputs from PTI)