Sri Lanka’s president and prime minister have agreed to resign after their two homes were stormed and one was set on fire.

The Prime Minister’s private residence was set on fire hours after he announced he would step down in the face of the country’s worsening economic crisis.

Ranil Wickremesinghe announced he was leaving on Saturday afternoon.

This followed the storming of the president’s official residence in the capital, Colombo, in one of the biggest anti-government protests to hit the country this year.

On Saturday evening, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the president, who was under intense pressure to step down, told the country’s president that he would step down on Wednesday.

Mr Wickremesinghe tweeted: ‘To ensure the continuation of government, including the safety of all citizens, I accept the party leaders’ best recommendation today, to make way for multi-party government.’

He resigned after thousands of people descended on the government district of Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, shouting slogans against the president and dismantling several police barricades to reach his house.

Police fired shots into the air but could not stop the angry mob from surrounding the residence.

At least 39 people, including two police officers, were injured in the unrest, hospital sources said.

Protesters also gathered outside the Presidential Secretariat, the President’s office and the Prime Minister’s home.

Both Mr Rajapaksa and Mr Wickremesinghe have been moved to a safe place, Defense Ministry sources said.

Hundreds of flag-bearing protesters gathered inside the president’s beachfront property and used the pool on a Facebook live stream.

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Sri Lankan protesters break into president’s house and go swimming

Protesters inside the home of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in Colombo.  Photo: AP
Protesters inside the president’s house in Colombo. Photo: AP

Mr Wickremesinghe, who was appointed in May, resigned after summoning political party leaders to an emergency meeting.

He also asked parliament to be recalled by the president, his office said.

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US Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung called on people to protest peacefully and on police to give protesters space – as she warned ‘chaos and force will not solve the economy”.

Sri Lanka, home to 22 million people, is facing its worst economic crisis in seven decades since its independence in 1948.

Inflation hit a record high of 54.6% in June and is expected to climb to 70%, increasing pressure on the cash-strapped population.

Protesters storm the presidential palace in Sri Lanka.  Photo: News Cutter
Protesters at the presidential palace. Photo: News Cutter
Protesters pictured in the garden of the President's house in Colombo.  Photo: Reuters
The garden of the presidential residence was invaded. Photo: Reuters
People stormed the living quarters of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to protest against the economic crisis.  Photo: Reuters
President’s accommodation. Photo: Reuters

The country is grappling with a severe shortage of foreign exchange which has limited essential imports of fuel, food and medicine.

Many blame Mr. Rajapaksa’s decline.

Protester Sampath Perera, 37, slammed the president for ‘holding on to power’ and warned: ‘We won’t stop until he listens to us’.

Crowds gathered outside the president's office in Colombo.  Photo: AP
Crowds gathered outside the president’s office in Colombo. Photo: AP
A tear gas shell fired by the police lands in the crowd of demonstrators in Colombo.  Photo: AP
A tear gas shell fired by the police lands in the crowd. Photo: AP
Sri Lankan authorities attempt to disperse protesters in Colombo on Saturday July 9 Pic: AP
Authorities are trying to disperse protesters in Colombo. Photo: AP

Anger has intensified in recent weeks as fuel shipments have dwindled, leading to rationing of petrol and diesel for essential services.

The British Foreign Office has warned against all but essential travel into the countrywhich has been left in financial turmoil due to economic mismanagement and the impact of the pandemic.

In April this year, Sri Lanka announced it was suspending foreign loan repayments, blaming a shortage of foreign currency.

A man covers his face after tear gas was fired in the Sri Lankan capital.  Photo: AP
A man covers his face after tear gas was fired in Colombo. Photo: AP
Protesters wear gas masks after tear gas was dispersed Pic: AP
Protesters came prepared with gas masks. Photo: AP

He has racked up debts of more than £42billion, around half of which, or £23.3billion, must be paid off by the end of 2027.

The crisis has severely damaged the reputation of the Rajapaksa political dynasty, which has ruled the country for most of the past two decades.

Mr Rajapaksa’s brother resigned as prime minister in May and two other brothers and a nephew also quit their ministerial posts this year.

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