Economy burns, Sri Lankans return to cooking with firewood

As once relatively wealthy Sri Lanka grapples with a dire economic crisis with shortages of everything from medicines to gas, people are turning to cooking with firewood.

The switch began at the beginning of the year when more than 1,000 kitchens across the country exploded, killing at least seven people and injuring hundreds.

This was because suppliers wanted to cut costs and increase the proportion of propane, which raised the pressure to dangerous levels.

But now, with more and more in a country of 22 million people, gas is either unavailable or too expensive for most.

Some tried to move to kerosene oil cookers, but the government did not have dollars to import along with petrol and diesel, which are also in short supply.

And those who bought electric cookers suffered a major setback when the government imposed a prolonged electricity blackout due to running out of dollars to import fuel for generators.

Niluka Hapuarachi, 41, was miraculously untouched when her gas range exploded shortly after cooking a Sunday dinner in August.

“Luckily, no one was there at that time. There were pieces of glass lying all around on the floor. The top of the glass stove had exploded. I would never use gas for cooking. it’s not safe. We are on firewood now,” she said, despite steps being taken to address the propane problem.

Read also: ‘We are going to die’: food shortage adds to Sri Lanka’s troubles

MG Karunavati, 67, the owner of a roadside eatery, also turned to wood, saying it was a choice between shutting down his business or the smoke and soot.

“We have trouble (breathing in the fumes) while cooking with firewood, but we have no choice,” Karunavati said. AFP, “Firewood is also difficult to find and it is also becoming very expensive.”

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