Sri Lanka has less than a day's worth of fuel left, the energy minister said on Sunday, even as the cash-strapped nation extended school closures for one week because there isn't enough fuel for teachers and parents to get kids to classrooms. Petrol and diesel queues snaked through the capital for kilometres, though most pumping stations have been without fuel for days.
Energy minister Kanchana Wijesekera said petrol reserves in the nation were 4,000 tonnes, just below one day's worth of consumption. "The next petrol shipment is expected between the 22nd and 23rd (of July)," he said. "We've contacted other suppliers, but we can't confirm new supplies before the 22nd." Last week, Sri Lanka announced a two-week halt to all fuel sales except for essential services to save petrol and diesel for emergencies.
Most shops were closed on Sunday, with the situation expected to worsen when banks and offices reopen on Monday. Desperate people were seen trying to flag down the few vehicles on the road hoping for a ride. Privately owned buses, which account for two-thirds of the country's fleet, said they operated a skeleton service on Sunday as they were badly affected by the fuel shortage.
Last month, schools were closed nationwide for a day due to fuel shortages and had remained closed for the last two weeks in urban areas. Schools will remain shut until Friday. Meanwhile, the energy minister appealed to the country's expatriates to send money home through banks to finance new oil purchases. "Finding money is a challenge. It's a huge challenge," Wijesekera said.