Sri Lanka down to last day of petrol - New prime minister says

Sri Lanka's new prime minister says the country is down to its last day of petrol as it faces its worst economic crisis in more than 70 years.

In a televised address, Ranil Wickremesinghe said the nation urgently needs $75m (£60.8m) of foreign currency in the next few days to pay for essential imports.

He said the central bank would have to print money to pay government wages.

Mr Wickremesinghe also said state-owned Sri Lankan Airlines may be privatised.

The island nation's economy has been hit hard by the pandemic, rising energy prices, and populist tax cuts. A chronic shortage of foreign currency and soaring inflation had led to a severe shortage of medicines, fuel and other essentials.

Ravindu Perera, who lives in the capital Colombo, said he and his family had begun searching for fuel before daybreak on Monday.

"We went to several fuel stations and most of them were closed. At around 5.30am we took a chance and joined a queue at Townhall which is the station usually providing fuel for government vehicles," SIA reports quoting the BBC.

"It was less crowded - but the queue gradually grew to about 2km long. We were lucky enough to get fuel around 9.00am once fuel was delivered."

He said his friends outside the capital were having to wait even longer. "I'm working from home now to try and save fuel because who knows when I'll get a full tank again."

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