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Sri Lanka President Gotabaya flees as protesters storm official residence in Colombo

Sri Lankan protesters break into the President's residence in Colombo on Saturday. (Twitter)

Sri Lanka's President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled his official residence on Saturday shortly before protesters, angered by an unprecedented economic crisis, stormed and overran the compound.

As protesters surged at the gates of the President's Palace, troops guarding the compound fired in the air to hold them back until Rajapaksa was safely removed, news agency AFP reported cited a top defence source.

"He is still the president, he is being protected by a military unit," the defence source told AFP.

People from the crowd broadcast live footage on social media showing hundreds of people walking through the President's Palace, an imposing colonial-era mansion is one of the most important symbols of symbols of state power.

Thousands of anti-government protesters ignored the curfew order and even forced railway authorities to operate trains to take them to Colombo for Saturday's rally, according to local media reports.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who would assume the presidency in the event of Rajapaksa's resignation, has called an urgent cabinet meeting to discuss a "swift resolution" to the political crisis, according to an official statement.

Police had withdrawn a curfew order issued on Friday after opposition parties, rights activists and the bar association threatened to sue the police chief.

Demonstrators have camped outside Rajapaksa's office to demand his resignation.

More soldiers armed with assault rifles were moved into Colombo on Friday to reinforce police guarding Rajapaksa's official residence but they have failed to arrest the human tide that has turned against him.

Sri Lanka’s economy has collapsed and there is an acute shortage of food and fuel amid runaway inflation in the country. The people are blaming  the Rajapaksa family for the corruption and mismanagement that has led to the deep crisis.

Sri Lanka has also defaulted on its USD 51 billion external debt and is desperately seeking foreign aid to meet its day-to-day expenditure.