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Sri Lanka enforces massive 7 ½ hour power cut as crisis worsens

The Sri Lankan government has enforced a more than 7-hour power cut across parts of the island today, amidst soaring prices and an economic crisis that continues to worsen.

The Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka approved a massive 7 ½ hour power cut that was enforced on Wednesday, March 2nd for 5 hours in the day and 2 ½ hours in the night. Another cut is taking place on March 4th. They are reportedly the longest in almost 26 years.

PUCSL Chairman Janka Ratnayake said they were pressured to mandate the 7 ½ power cut in response to insufficient fuel to operate the electricity generators.

“There is nothing we can do about this,” Ratnayake said at a media briefing. He anticipated the power cut to have a major impact on the public. Ratnayake claimed that because the Ceylon Electricity Board does not have sufficient amounts of fuel to operate the generators at full capacity, the circumstances are beyond their control.

Ratnayake also posited that Sri Lanka’s cabinet was notified both verbally and in writing on appropriate steps and measures to take to avert such a crisis but there was no response.

The latest cuts come despite Sri Lanka’s president claiming that there would be no further cuts from March 5th onwards. “The distribution of fuel to all fuel stations across the country will be normalised from tomorrow," the statement from Gotabaya Rajapaksa's office said.

Many on the island however remain doubtful that the crisis is over.

The economic crisis initiated by policies before COVID-19 has only been exacerbated by the crippling of the island’s tourism sector following the pandemic, inflation, and foreign exchange reserves shrinking. The rise in price of basic goods has hit locals hard.

“All our basic items have become almost unaffordable now,” Shamla Laxman, told The Guardian. “Every day I am fearful of not being able to feed my family tomorrow.”

“These days it’s become impossible to find, and when you do find it in a shop, the prices are so expensive, double or triple what it was before, that I can’t afford it for my family.”

Read more from The Guardian here.

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