Army opens fire on rioters at gas station
COLOMBO (Reuters) – The Sri Lankan army opened fire to contain riots at a petrol station, officials said on Sunday as unprecedented queues for petrol and diesel were seen in the whole country bankrupt. Troops fired at Visuvamadu, 365 kilometers (228 miles) north of Colombo, on Saturday night as their outpost was pelted with rocks, army spokesman Nilantha Premaratne said.
“A group of 20 to 30 people threw stones and damaged an army truck,” Premaratne told AFP. Police say four civilians and three soldiers were injured when the army first opened fire to quell unrest over the worsening economic crisis.
As the pump ran out of gas, motorists began to protest and the situation escalated into a clash with troops, police said. Sri Lanka is going through its worst economic crisis since independence, with the country unable to find dollars to import basic necessities including food, fuel and medicine.
The country’s 22 million people are facing severe shortages and long queues for scarce supplies, while President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has for months resisted calls to resign over mismanagement. Sri Lanka has deployed police and armed troops to guard gas stations.
A motorist was shot dead by police in April in the central town of Rambukkana when a clash erupted over the distribution of rationed petrol and diesel. Police said crashes involving motorists broke out at three locations over the weekend. At least six gendarmes were injured in a clash while seven motorists were arrested.
The government has declared a two-week closure of public institutions and schools in a bid to reduce travel and conserve fuel stocks that are running out in the impoverished nation. The country is also facing record inflation and long blackouts, all of which have contributed to months of protests.
Four out of five people in Sri Lanka have started skipping meals because they cannot afford to eat, the UN has said, warning of a ‘serious humanitarian crisis’ looming with millions in need of food. assistance.
The World Food Program (WFP) on Thursday began distributing food stamps to around 2,000 pregnant women in “underserved” areas of Colombo as part of “life-saving assistance”. The WFP is trying to raise $60 million for a food relief effort 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 a bailout