COLOMBO: India pledged emergency supplies of gasoline to Sri Lanka on Wednesday as the island struggles with a crippling fuel shortage that has seen panic buying at gas stations.
The spiralling crisis, which has forced commuters to ditch their cars in favour of diesel-powered public transport, has gripped Sri Lanka since authorities turned away a shipment of about 40,000 tonnes of gasoline in mid October, saying it was contaminated. Further supplies were unexpectedly delayed.
India's High Commission to the country on Wednesday said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had proffered support in a telephone call with Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, with a tanker carrying 21,000 tonnes of gasoline already on its way.
"Further shipments of petrol assured, if needed," the statement said.
Sri Lanka's government has apologised for the unprecedented fuel shortage, which has seen long queues form at gas stations and forced motorists to leave their vehicles at home.
Gasoline is used mostly for cars, motorcycles and the country's ubiquitous tuk-tuk taxis.
On Monday, authorities said they were down to the last 10,000 tonnes of gasoline in their storage tanks while daily demand was at about 2,500 tonnes. The country's only refinery has been adding about 800 tonnes of gasoline daily.
Officials have blamed panic buying for compounding the crisis.
The situation is expected to improve within days, with the Indian shipment and the arrival of another previously-delayed delivery.
Sri Lanka's retail oil market is operated by the state-owned Ceylon Petroleum Corporation and a local arm of the Indian Oil Company.