June 30, 2022

Sri Lanka: Two More Men Die Waiting in Fuel Lines

Two men died in Sri Lanka this week while waiting in hours-long lines for fuel amid the country’s ongoing financial crisis, the Press Trust of India (PTI) reported Thursday.

“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,” PTI reported on June 16.

“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,” according to the news agency.

Eyewitnesses told Sri Lanka’s The Morning news website on Thursday that the 53-year-old died on his way to the hospital after an ambulance called to assist the man “was delayed for about half an hour.”

Another man aged 64 died in similar circumstances on June 15 in Pugoda, a town located northwest of Colombo, while waiting in a line overnight to purchase cooking fuel, both PTI and Sri Lanka’s The Morning website reported.

A mother and her child carry liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders in Colombo on June 11, 2022. (Photo by Pradeep Dambarage/NurPhoto)

A mother and her child carry liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinders in Colombo on June 11, 2022. (Photo by Pradeep Dambarage/NurPhoto)

Residents and citizens of Sri Lanka have been forced to wait in hours-long lines for fuel, food, and medicine since early March after the country essentially ran out of foreign currency reserves used to purchase vital imported goods. Sri Lanka’s foreign currency reserves began to dry up this year after the Chinese coronavirus pandemic reportedly cut the island nation off from traditional sources of the currency, such as tourism and remittances. Colombo relies heavily on foreign currency reserves to buy its most basic goods, almost all of which must be imported to the tiny Indian Ocean country. Sri Lanka’s ongoing deficit of foreign currency reserves has left the nation unable to pay for foreign shipments and thus caused dire shortages of basic supplies.

At least ten people have died while waiting in excessively long fuel lines in Sri Lanka since March, with some reportedly succumbing to heat exhaustion.

The Sri Lankan news website Sinhala News reported on April 28 that a “63-year-old male resident of Kalutara, Sri Lanka, […] collapsed waiting in line for kerosene died en route to hospital Thursday afternoon (28), bringing the death toll at the country’s growing fuel queues to eight.”

One person who died while waiting in a fuel line in the Sri Lankan town of Nittambuwa on March 20 or March 21 was allegedly “murdered” by other people in the line “due to an argument in the filling station,” Sri Lanka’s News First website reported at the time.

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