India ships emergency fuel to Sri Lanka

India has shipped emergency supplies of fuel to Sri Lanka to help the country tide over extreme shortage after Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, the main distributor of petrol and diesel in Sri Lanka, found 35,000 tonnes of fuel procured from the Lanka subsidiary of Indian Oil Corporation contaminated.

On Friday last, CPC rejected a recent 35,000 metric tonne-shipment procured by LIOC, on grounds of contamination. Reports of the shortage sparked panic-buying, intensifying the problem over the last few days. Motorists formed long queues outside gas stations, waiting several hours for fuel.

Following Sri Lanka's request for emergency shipment of fuel, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday assured President Maithripala Sirisena of ''all possible assistance.''

The two leaders spoke over telephone and a 21,000 kilolitre-shipment left Paradip Refinery in Odisha on Wednesday, according to a press statement issued by the Indian High Commission in Colombo.

Lanka IOC, the Indian Oil Corporation subsidiary in Sri Lanka, has also made 3,500 kilolitres from its stock available to the state-owned CPC.

While Lanka's petroleum ministry and CPC unions accuse the LIOC of forcing them to accept the rejected shipment after filtration, LIOC denied the allegations which, it said, were ''factually incorrect.''

In an official statement, LIOC said that while it catered to 16 per cent of the market, CPC had a majority 84 per cent share, and was hence responsible for the shortage.

Politicians owing allegiance to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa's faction of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, blame the LIOC for the crisis, while Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said the causes would be probed.

He, however, disagreed with the allegation. ''Fuel supply was maintained to some extent during the recent strike action launched by petroleum workers, thanks to the LIOC,'' he said.

CPC, meanwhile, is expected to receive a 40,000-metric tonne shipment of petrol, for CPC's supply, which would have reached Colombo late Wednesday. India has also assured Sri Lanka of additional petrol from the Kochi Refinery, in case of any further shortage.