Sri Lankan police said on Sunday that two men collapsed and died as they waited in separate rows to get fuel amid skyrocketing prices, leading to record inflation.
The men, in their 70s, died while waiting for gasoline and kerosene oil in two different parts of the country, police spokesman Nalin Thalduwa said in the commercial capital of Colombo.
For weeks, people have queued at pumps, often for hours, and the country has faced ongoing power outages.
“One was a 70-year-old tricycle driver who was a diabetes and heart patient, while the second was a 72-year-old. Both had queued for fuel oil for about four hours,” Thalduwa said.
Sri Lanka on Sunday suspended operations at its only fuel refinery after crude oil supplies ran out, said Ashoka Ranwala, the chairman of the Petroleum General Employees’ Union.
The Department of Energy was not immediately available for comment.
Kerosene oil use has increased after low-income families began to move away from cooking gas due to price increases. On Sunday, Laugfs Gas, the country’s second-largest supplier, raised prices by 1,359 rupees ($4.94) for a 12.5kg cylinder, the company said in a statement.
Sri Lanka has struggled since January to find dollars to pay for its increasingly expensive fuel shipments, with foreign exchange reserves falling to $2.31 billion in February.
In February, Sri Lanka’s inflation reached 15.1%, one of the highest in Asia, and food inflation rose to 25.7%, the latest government data shows.
Earlier this month, Sri Lanka’s central bank released the rupee, causing the currency to plunge more than 30% to trade at about 275 rupees per US dollar.
Powdered milk prices rose 250 rupees ($0.90) for a 400g pack on Saturday, prompting restaurant owners to raise the cost of a cup of milk tea to 100 rupees.
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