Sri Lanka Faces 13-Hour Blackouts, Hospitals Suspend Routine Surgeries

As the cash-strapped island’s economic crisis deteriorated, Sri Lanka declared national 13-hour daily power cuts starting Thursday, and additional hospitals canceled regular surgeries after running out of life-saving drugs.

The 22-million-strong South Asian nation is experiencing its worst economic downturn since gaining independence in 1948, owing to a severe scarcity of foreign currency to pay for even the most basic goods.

The state electricity monopoly announced that the 10-hour power outage on Wednesday would be extended by three hours beginning Thursday, resulting in a 13-hour rolling countrywide blackout.

Since the beginning of the month, the country has been subjected to severe electricity restrictions, with the monopoly claiming that an earlier increase in power outages from seven to ten hours was enforced due to a lack of oil to fuel thermal generators.

Officials say that while hydropower generates more than 40% of Sri Lanka’s electricity, most of the reservoirs are dangerously low due to the lack of rain.

Coal and oil are the primary sources of electricity. Both are imported, but in low supply due to the country’s inability to pay suppliers due to a lack of currency.

At least two more hospitals have reported that routine procedures have been halted because they are running low on critical medical supplies, anesthetics, and chemicals needed to conduct diagnostic testing, and they wish to save them for emergency situations.

The National Hospital of Sri Lanka, the country’s largest medical facility, said it has also halted basic diagnostic tests.

However, an official stated that the plant was still receiving power from the national grid. Meanwhile, the country’s largest fuel retailer stated there would be no diesel, the most regularly used fuel for public transportation, for at least two days.

Protests for fuel for private vehicles, which are also used for public transportation, were reported by local broadcasters all around the country.

Hundreds of motorists blocked important roads in numerous towns, and dozens gathered outside the Central Bank of Sri Lanka in Colombo, demanding the ouster of governor Ajith Cabraal.

Queuing motorists were encouraged to leave and return only once imported diesel was unloaded and distributed, according to officials from the state-owned Ceylon Petroleum Corporation.

Fuel prices have also been raised several times this year, with the cost of gasoline nearly tripling and the cost of diesel rising by 76% since the beginning of the year.

In March 2020, Colombo announced a sweeping import embargo to save foreign currency for the service of its $51 billion foreign debt. However, this has resulted in severe shortages of vital products as well as significant price increases.

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