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Ekeomah Atuonwu

Doctors and bankers were among hundreds of Sri Lankans who marched on Wednesday to demand the government resolve a severe fuel shortage at the heart of the Indian Ocean island’s worst economic crisis in decades or step down.

A family waits to buy kerosene amid a shortage of domestic gas, at a fuel station in Colombo
Image: /Dinuka Liyanawatte/Reuters/

Weeks of street demonstrations against cascading woes such as power cuts and shortages of food and medicine brought a change in government last month after nine people were killed and about 300 injured in protests.

Left with just enough fuel for about a week and fresh shipments at least two weeks away, the government restricted supplies on Tuesday to essential services, such as trains, buses and the health sector, for two weeks.

Sri Lankans run out of gas. Photo: AFP/File/Ishara S. Kodikara

According to the prime minister’s office, a government-ordered petrol cargo would arrive on July 22, while Lanka IOC, an Indian Oil Corporation subsidiary, expects a supply of petrol and diesel around July 13.

Despite being labeled essential employees, doctors, nurses, and medical personnel claim they struggle to obtain enough fuel to travel to work.

A driver looks on as hundreds of tuk-tuks wait for fuel in Colombo on June 20 /CNN/

A march to the president’s house by a trade union of bankers, teachers, and the self-employed was stopped by riot police who had thrown up barricades to guard the area.

More than 100 medical staff of the national hospital in Colombo marched to the prime minister’s office calling for the government to ensure fresh supplies of fuel and medicines.

Long queue as Sri Lankans wait to buy diesel at a Ceylon Petroleum Corporation fuel station in Colombo on March 31, 2022 /AFP/

Public health inspectors and other health service workers are also on strike on Wednesday and Thursday.

The island of 22 million has nearly run out of useable foreign exchange reserves to import essentials such as food, medicine, petrol and diesel.

Fed up over a worsening economic crisis that has brought fuel shortages & spiralling food prices /Getty Images/

As the crisis grows, many people have been detained trying to flee the country by boat.

The government is also looking abroad for help, to countries from the Middle East to Russia.

On Tuesday, in a bid to secure fuel, Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera met Qatar’s minister of state for energy affairs and the chief executive of Qatar Energy. He is also seeking a line of credit from a Qatar development fund.

Another Sri Lankan minister will travel to Russia at the weekend in search of energy deals.

People place their canisters in line as they wait to buy kerosene oil outside a fuel station in Colombo, Sri Lanka /Courtesy/
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Ekeomah Atuonwu

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Members of the Samagi Vanitha Balawegaya, protest near Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s private residence, amid the country’s economic crisis, in Sri Lanka, June 22, 2022.