• Sri Lanka has restricted fuel supplies across the country as its reserves run dangerously low.
  • Drivers told the BBC they'd been in line for two days and didn't know when they would get a refill.
  • The country is facing its worst economic crisis in decades, with inflation reaching 54.6% in June.

Sri Lanka has run out of fuel. The South Asian nation has in recent weeks been facing a crippling gasoline shortage amid an economic crisis that's propelled public discontent to a fever pitch.

With its foreign currency reserves running dry, the country hasn't had enough cash for months to pay for food, medicine, power, and other essentials. In June, inflation reached 54.6%.

Meanwhile, the country's government didn't even have sufficient funds to pay for one tanker's worth of oil in May, Bloomberg reported.

As the last of its fuel reserves drain out, Sri Lanka on Wednesday restricted the sale of fuel to essential businesses — buses, trains, and medical and food transport — for the next two weeks, making it the first country to do so since 1970, per the BBC. The government has pledged to restore fuel supplies by July 10.

People queue to buy liquefied petroleum gas on June 28. Foto: ISHARA S. KODIKARA/AFP via Getty Images

Gas stations are now rationing fuel, giving queue tokens to up to 150 drivers at a time. According to the BBC, some pumps have queues stretching far longer than that number, with one driver telling the outlet he believed he was the 300th person in his line.

One taxi driver in Colombo with an empty tank told the outlet that he'd been waiting in his car for two days to get a refill and still doesn't know how long he'll have to languish there.

Another told the BBC that he'd also been waiting for two days and actually had a queue token — number 11 — but also had no idea when he'd get his top-up.

A soldier guards a gas pump that's run out of fuel. Foto: AFP via Getty Images

Experts say a mix of nepotism and gross financial mismanagement have led to Sri Lanka's foreign debt piling up to $51 billion against a foreign reserve of only $25 million.

Sri Lanka's government has in turn blamed the COVID-19 pandemic for pummeling its tourism trade — the country's biggest industry. Meanwhile, weeks of protests have wracked Colombo, with tens of thousands of people gathering to demand the removal of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

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