Sri Lankan authorities on Friday closed schools and urged government officials not to go to work in a desperate attempt to prepare for a severe fuel shortage expected to last several days amid the country's worst economic crisis in decades, AP reported.
The Ministry of Public Administration asked employees, with the exception of those providing essential services, not to report to work on Friday due to ongoing fuel shortages and vehicle problems across the country.
Private schools also closed on Friday as fuel shortages deepened, with thousands queuing at gas stations across the country for several days.
Sri Lanka is now almost without gasoline and is in dire need of other fuels.
The government has struggled to find money to pay for imports of fuel, gas and other necessities in recent months as the Indian Ocean island nation teeters on the brink of bankruptcy.
His economic troubles led to a political crisis as the government faced massive protests and riots.
For months now, Sri Lankans have been standing in long lines to buy these essentials, most of which come from overseas. The lack of hard currency also prevents the import of raw materials for production and exacerbates inflation.
The protesters blocked the main roads, demanding gasoline and fuel.
Authorities have announced nationwide power outages for up to four hours a day as they cannot provide enough fuel for power plants.
Sri Lanka has suspended repayments of about $7 billion of foreign loans due this year, out of $25 billion due by 2026. The country's total external debt is $51 billion. The Treasury Department reports that the country currently has only $25 million in usable foreign exchange reserves.
Protesters have been blocking the entrance to the president's office for more than a month, calling on President Gotabay Rajapaksa to step down.
One of the president's brothers resigned as prime minister, and other siblings and a nephew left their cabinet posts. The protesters accuse the Rajapaks of instigating the crisis through corruption and mismanagement.
Sri Lanka's new prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, said the country urgently needs about $75 billion to provide the population with basic necessities, but the treasury is struggling to find even $1 billion.
Attacks by Rajapaksa supporters on protesters last week sparked violence across the country that left nine people, including an MP, dead and more than 200 injured. Houses of deputies and their supporters were burned down.