“From midnight today, no fuel will be sold except for essential services like the health sector, because we want to conserve the little reserves we have,” government spokesman Bandula Gunawardana was quoted as saying by news agency AFP.
Schools will remain shut and employees of private offices have been asked to work from home. Government officials have been asked to opt for work from home.
This is the first time the island nation of 22 million people has run out of fuel. Since the beginning of this year, the price of fuel has jumped five-fold. The last price hike took place yesterday.
The price of diesel is retailing at 460 Lankan rupee and petrol retailing at 550 per litre.
There is no clarity on new shipments of oil, the Sri Lankan energy minister has confirmed and urged citizens not to queue up at fuel stations. A shipment was supposed to arrive today, but suppliers have expressed their inability to deliver, citing non-commitment of payments and logistic issues. No further shipments have been scheduled as the country has run out of dollars.
Sources said Lankan ministers will travel to Russia and Qatar to discuss more fuel for the country in the coming days. The International Monetary Fund is in Sri Lanka for talks on a possible bailout package.
Sri Lanka has been reeling under its biggest economic crisis since its Independence in 1948 and has been unable to finance the import of food, medicines or fuel since late last year.
Earlier this month, the Public Administration ministry ordered all departments, public institutions and local councils to maintain skeleton services in view of the duel shortage.
“Due to scarce public transport as well as the inability to arrange private vehicles, it is decided to drastically curtail the number of employees reporting to work,” the ministry’s order said.
The order came a day after the United Nations launched its emergency programme. Four out of five people in Sri Lanka are skipping meals as they cannot afford to eat, the UN said. The World Food Programme said it began distributing food vouchers to about 2,000 pregnant women in parts of Colombo.
With inputs from NDTV