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Tuesday February 27th, 2024

Petrol burn deaths increase in forex-starved Sri Lanka as households store fuel in cans

File photo of fuel queue in Sri Lanka

ECONOMYNEXT – An unforeseen consequence of Sri Lanka’s prevailing forex crisis has been a 20-percent increase in deaths by petrol burn in households that store fuel in cans as queues lengthen at filling stations, according to a health official.

Deaths caused by petrol contact burns increased in late March along with an increase in fire accidents in households where fuel is stored in unsafe conditions, Specialist Plastic Surgeon at the Colombo National Hospital Dr Gayan Munasinghe said.

The number of patients admitted to the state hospital due to petrol contact burns has increased to an average of six cases per day and the death rate due to petrol burns has increased by 20 percent, he said.

“At the Colombo National Hospital, we treated only about one or two petrol contact burns till January. But now it has increased dangerously and now we are treating four to six cases daily and around 20 percent die, meaning one death per two days” Munasighe said.

“Due to the current situation, people have been storing fuel at home. This has led to several dangerous situations and we have been hearing reports of fire accidents in households throughout the country.”

Munasinghe said petrol burns are more severe than kerosene burns and that storing fuel in various types of cans that are not airtight can cause explosions due to petrol evaporating and mixing with the surrounding air.

“The danger of storing fuel in houses where you don’t get the safety measures of a fuel station is that if the petrol evaporates and mixes with the air in the house, lighting a stove or turning on a switch can ignite it causing a sudden fire in the house,” Munasinghe said.

“Several people have lost their lives during the past few days. Especially children as well as some adults do not know how to handle petrol,” he said.

If the human body burns 40-50 percent due to petrol, the expert said, it can be a life threatening situation for the patients and survival rate is very low.

“It is a life threatening situation if the body has burned more than 20 percent. Saving a life if it is 40-50 percent is nearly impossible. Also the cost for medication is very high and we might have to treat the patient with thousands rupees worth of medicine just to keep the patient alive for 24 hours and most of the time even after doing that the results will not be good,” Munasinghe said.

“Due to scarring, they become disabled for the rest of their lives. Our skin is our identity. If that gets damaged, it creates many issues, epecially for children and young adults who have a bright future ahead of them.”

If storing fuel at home is a must, he said, the public must ensure that safety measures are followed as if it were a filling station.

“In a fuel station they have many safety measures, such as switching off the engine while filling, no smoking, etc. If the fuel is stored at home, there should be safety measures there as well such as no cooking, no cell phone, no switching on lights, etc.,” Munasinghe said.

People standing in fuel queues, cans in hand, has been a common sight in recent weeks as Sri Lanka’s fuel shortages worsen amid a worsening forex crisis. People have been seen collecting extra fuel in fear of future shortages. Authorities say panic buying is making the problem worse when petrol is available and a continuous supply is to be ensured through an Indian credit line. (Colombo/Mar24/2022)

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Sri Lanka president appoints Supreme Court-faulted official as police chief after CC clearance

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe appointed Deshbandu Tennakoon as the 36th Inspector General of Police (IGP) of the country after the Constitutional Council (CC) cleared the official who along with three other police officers were asked by the Supreme Court to compensate 2 million rupees in a fundamental rights case last year.

“President Ranil Wickremesinghe has appointed Deshbandu Tennakoon as the IGP in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution,” the President’s Media Division (PMD) said.

The island nation’s Supreme Court on December 14 ordered Tennakoon when he was the Acting IGP and three other officials to pay a compensation of 500,000 rupees each for the violation of the fundamental rights of an individual.

The Supreme Court also instructed the Police Commission to take disciplinary action against the said Police officers after it considered the petition filed by W. Ranjith Sumangala who had accused the Police officers of violating his fundamental rights during his detention at Mirihana Police Station in 2011.

The Supreme Court held that the four police officers violated the fundamental rights of the petitioner by his illegal arrest, detention and subjection to torture at the Mirihana Police Station, which was under the supervision of Tennakoon at the time of the arrest.

President’s Secretary Saman Ekanayake presented the official appointment letter to Tennakoon on Monday (26) at the Presidential Secretariat.

When Tennakoon was asked over if the Supreme Court decision would have an impact on his appointment as the IGP last week, he declined to comment, saying that it was a Supreme Court matter and he does not want to say anything about it.

Tennakoon was also criticized by Colombo Archbishop Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith when he was appointed as the Acting IGP citing allegations against him related to security lapses leading up to the Easter Sunday attacks which killed at least 269 in April 2019.

However, Tennakoon rejected the allegations. (Colombo/Feb 26/2024)

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No water tariff hike in Sri Lanka this year: Minister

Millennium Challenge Corporation Photo.

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s planned water tariff formula is ready, and the government will implement it this year only if the formula’s tariff is lower than the current price, Water Supply Minister Jeevan Thondaman said.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government has been implementing IMF-led pricing policies on utilities and the Water Supply Ministry has already come up with a formula.

“There is a water tariff formula in place right now and we are waiting for it to be drafted and seek approval from the cabinet,” Thondaman told reporters at a media briefing in Colombo on Monday.

“Once this water tariff formula is in place, there will be an annual revision with an option of biannual review.

The formula has been developed with the help of the Asian Development Bank. The formula includes electricity and exchange rate among many others as components like the fuel formula.

The National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWS&DB) increased the water tariff in August 2023, claiming that the operating cost had been increased owing to high interest payment for bank loans and increased electricity prices.

The last year revision saw the consumers paying 30-50 percent increase from the existing water bill.

Minister Thondaman said he will implement the new formula this year only if there is a reduction.


“We will have to wait to see what the formula is. If the formula shows us there needs to be a reduction in the water tariff, we can implement it. But if there is an increase, why should we burden the people when we are on a road to recovery?” he said.

He said a group of experts including University Professors are working on the formula and the numbers.

“Once they come with the number, we will have to take a decision on whether we are going to impose on the people or not,” he said.

“We have already spoken to the Asian Development Bank and informed them we have established the formula. But according to the ADB requirement of this policy-based loan, the implementation period is only in 2025.”

“But right now, you want to take the approval for the formula for sustainability.”

The Energy Ministry is considering a drastic slash in electricity tariff soon. Thondaman said the exact numbers will be decided on after the finalized electricity tariff.

However, he said that as per the formula, there has to be a up to 10 percent increase in the water tariff as of now.

“Given the current formula set up, there must be around a 9-10 percent increase. It was actually at 14 percent. What we have done is since it is at 14 percent, we also did a calculation to see how we can do a cost cutting,” he said.

“So, despite our cost cutting measures, there will be an increase of 9 or 10 percent. But we will not be imposing it as of now because this year is meant to be policy sector reforms. Next year is meant to be the implementation.”

“As per August 2023 water tariff hike, we are able to come close to sustainable. So right now, there is no issue in the water sector. But a formula eventually needs to be established.” (Colombo/Feb 26/2024)

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Sri Lanka rupee closes at 310.80/311.00 to the US dollar

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s rupee closed at 310.80/311.00 to the US dollar Monday, from 310.95/311.05 on Thursday, dealers said.

Bond yields were down.

A bond maturing on 01.02.2026 closed stable at 10.60/80 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.09.2027 closed at 11.80/90 percent down from 11.90/12.05 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.03.2028 closed at 12.00/12.15 percent down from 12.10/25 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.07.2029 closed at 12.20/70 percent from 12.20/95 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2030 closed at 12.30/70 percent down from 12.40/95 percent.

A bond maturing on 15.05.2031 closed at 12.60/80 percent from 12.45/13.00 percent.

A bond maturing on 01.07.2032 closed at 12.50/90 percent from 12.50/13.30 percent. (Colombo/Feb26/2024)

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