06/25/2022, 13.17
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Sri Lanka, 10th fatality among drivers queuing at gas stations

by Melani Manel Perera

A 63-year-old truck driver died on the fifth day of waiting for fuel. A mother threw her five-year-old son into the Kelani River and attempted suicide. Food prices rise and there is a shortage of medicines. Opposition fears danger of civil war amid growing conflict. 

Colombo (AsiaNews) - Another victim, the tenth, among people standing in line days on end at gas stations, vainly waiting to be able to refuel their vehicles. And the increasingly real risk that the general and widespread discontent in the country, caused by the economic crisis, will take an increasingly violent turn, such as to trigger street conflicts. Sri Lanka is experiencing a dramatic situation, and there are no prospects for change on the horizon, at least for now. 

Police sources report that on June 22 a 63-year-old truck driver, who had been waiting for five days to refuel in Anguruwatota in Western province, died inside his vehicle. He was victim number 10 among hundreds of thousands of people queuing at gas stations in a nation plagued by debt and grappling with the worst economic crisis since the proclamation of independence. 

Those who died ranged in age from 43 to 84; the majority of the deaths were due to cardiac arrest. Last week a 53-year-old man in line at a gas station in the capital died of a heart attack. Also last week, a mother desperate over the family's economic situation threw her five-year-old son into the Kelani River (in Colombo) and attempted suicide. The child died, while the mother survived. 

Sri Lanka, with a population of 22 million and an external debt of nearly 50 billion, is facing severe fuel shortages, escalating food prices and a shortage of medicines. Coupled with this is the central bank's inability to open credit channels to facilitate fuel imports. 

In an effort to save money, the Ministry of Public Administration has declared Friday a public holiday for the next three months; the rule also applies to schools, to ease the burden of transportation in a sector where only 20 percent of vehicles are operational due to fuel shortages. Tensions are high and part of the ruling class is not ruling out the danger of clashes and violence. Vasudeva Nanayakkara, leader of the Democratic Left Front, foresees the risk of civil war in a climate of escalating conflict. 

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