Sri Lanka’s military deployed troops to hundreds of gas stations across the island nation this week after fuel shortages caused massive lines at the sites, with some crowds reporting murders and deaths among the masses, Reuters reported Tuesday.
Sri Lankan Armed Forces spokesman Nilantha Premaratne told Reuters on March 22, “at least two army personnel will be deployed at every fuel pump” to help distribute fuel to customers frustrated by long lines at the stations.
“Tension over the scarcity of supplies has led to sporadic violence among residents jostling to buy fuel and other essential items,” the news agency reported.
“Police said a man was stabbed to death on Monday [March 21] in an argument with the driver of a three-wheeled vehicle, while last week three elderly men died while queueing to buy fuel in sweltering heat,” according to Reuters.
“Several altercations were reported in connection with fuel queues in the last few days, while a murder took place at Horagolla, Nittambuwa on Sunday [March 20] due to an argument in the filling station,” Sri Lanka’s News 1st website reported on March 22.
News 1st reported separately on March 22 that some people fed up with the nationwide fuel shortages had begun to stage a mass protest against the Sri Lankan government by blocking the main road in Sri Lanka’s southern town of Rathgama on Tuesday morning.
Al Jazeera cited social media visuals to report a similar protest on March 21 in which a group of women allegedly “blockad[ed] a coach carrying tourists to protest against shortages of kerosene needed for cooking stoves.”
Sri Lankan produce traders told News 1st on March 22, “the lack of diesel for businessmen” has negatively impacted the usual business of merchants who move and sell fresh vegetables across Sri Lankan farmers’ markets.
“Although the Katugastota Economic Center has received stocks of vegetables these days, because of the current fuel crisis there has been a sharp decline in the number of buyers,” Katugastota Traders Association Chairman D.N. Silva told the news website.
“As a result, the prices of vegetables at the Katugastota Economic Center have dropped sharply these days,” he revealed.
Sri Lanka’s fuel shortage is part of a larger financial crisis the country has suffered from since the onset of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic in March 2020. The small, tropical island nation traditionally relied heavily upon tourism and remittances from Sri Lankans working abroad to fuel its economy but was dealt a blow when the pandemic hampered both sectors. Sri Lanka is currently reeling from a deficit of foreign currency that has left its traders unable to finance crucial imports.
“Shortages have wrought havoc on almost every aspect of daily life, with authorities last week postponing term tests for millions of students because of a lack of paper and ink,” Al Jazeera noted on March 22.