Sri Lanka brewery switches to bottling water for victims

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka’s top brewery normally produces 160,000 bottles of beer a day. Now the plant has turned its technical might to producing a very different beverage: potable water for the survivors of the Asian tsunami disaster.

There was one hitch at the start for the Lion Brewery. The water it produced looked like beer because of the color and labeling of the bottles.

“So we then made an urgent request to get white glass bottles and they are now coming,” Naufar Rahim, a senior company executive, said Saturday.

The company stopped making beer after hearing reports that survivors of the Dec. 28 disaster ran the risk of drinking contaminated water. It quickly summoned workers and executives to the bottling plant.

The whole plant had to be cleaned and the beer remaining in the system had to be purged.

“We needed every hand because the packing of the water bottles had to be done manually,” Rahim said. Beer bottling is 100 percent mechanized, but the executives found that if they ran the system mechanically, it would also paste the Lion Lager sign on the bottles.

“Even our managers got into the act and helped the staff to manually store the bottles in packages,” she said.

After the disaster, the demand for liquor has dropped considerably, Rahim said.

“But it is a wonderful feeling that we can make you happy with whatever we produce – good water or good beer,” she said.

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