Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa has announced he will step down after protesters stormed his official residence and set the prime minister’s house on fire.
Neither the prime minister nor the president was in the buildings at the time.
Hundreds of thousands descended on the capital Colombo, calling for Rajapaksa to resign after months of protests over economic mismanagement.
Sri Lanka is suffering rampant inflation and is struggling to import food, fuel and medicine amid the country’s worst economic crisis in 70 years.
It has run out of foreign currency and has had to impose a ban on sales of petrol and diesel for private vehicles, leading to days-long queues for fuel.
One protester, Fiona Sirmana, who was demonstrating at the president’s house, said it was time “to get rid of the president and the prime minister and to have a new era for Sri Lanka”.
“I feel very, very sad that they didn’t go earlier because, had they gone earlier, there wouldn’t have been any destruction,” she told Reuters.
Dozens of people were injured in the protests, and a spokesperson for Colombo’s main hospital told AFP news agency that three people were being treated for gunshot wounds.
After the protest, the United States appealed to the Sri Lankan leadership to act promptly to resolve the country’s economic crisis.
Rajapaksa will step down on July 13. Prime minister Wickremesinghe has also agreed to resign.
The speaker of parliament said the president decided to step down “to ensure a peaceful handover of power” and called on the public to “respect the law”.
The announcement triggered an eruption of celebratory fireworks in the city.
Political leaders are due to hold further meetings to discuss a smooth transition of power.
Sri Lanka’s military has appealed to people to cooperate with security forces to maintain calm. —BBC