Colombo, July 13 (IndiaToday) – The impact of widespread anti-government protests engulfing the streets of Colombo – the national capital of Sri Lanka, is now visible from the skies. As protests continue to get extensive, the president of Sri Lanka fled the country early Wednesday.
In the satellite pictures captured on Tuesday, protestors in long queues are seen waiting to enter the President’s Secretariat and President’s House.
Several protestors on the nearby streets are seen carrying umbrellas as they stand in marching formation towards the Secretariat.
Earlier, both Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and President Gotabaya Rajapaksa agreed to vacate office due to the mounting pressure from protesters. According to an Associated Press report, the Sri Lankan government owes $51 billion and has shown an inability to make interest payments on its loans. Due to COVID19, the island country’s tourism sector has collapsed by 80%, which has made imports expensive. The country’s food inflation has risen 57%, inciting civil unrest.
Local reports suggest that people have to skip meals due to extreme shortages of food. Fuel has become one of the most scarce commodities as people have to wait for hours outside filling stations. Satellite images provided by US-based space firm Maxar Technologies show similar long lines of cars waiting for fuel in downtown Colombo.
Earlier, a Sri Lankan Air Force plane helped President Gotabaya Rajapaksa escape the country along with his wife. Rajapaksa has reportedly flown to Male – the capital city of the Maldives. Military helicopters were seen for the first time on Wednesday as a group of protestors tried to storm into the Prime Minister’s office.
Along with the pandemic, the 2019 Easter suicide bombings that killed more than 250 people, destroyed the tourism industry, which has been an important source of foreign exchange. Defiant governments kept pushing tax cuts that made the economic conditions even worse. In order to save foreign exchange, the government banned imports of chemical fertilizers that drove food prices even higher. The war in Ukraine made things even worse, pushing up fuel prices internationally. The rising cost of living has been driving the mass protests against the civilian leadership that has been tainted by allegations of corruption and mismanagement.