Petrol stations were forced to impost a £30 limit on top-ups as people were spotted panic buying fuel by filling up jerry cans. The crisis has led to concerns there won’t be fuel for emergency services
Image: Daily Mirror/Andy Stenning)
Panic-buyers triggered chaos and anger at the pumps yesterday – even depriving emergency services of much-needed fuel.
Some drivers filled up their cars and then produced a string of jerry cans to top up too.
Other motorists queued for hours after ignoring pleas not to fill up for the sake of it.
There were reports of fist fights on the forecourts, ambulances having to wait in line for fuel and road snarl-ups caused by queueing cars.
Some medics cancelled shifts because they had no fuel to get to work.
Others feared being unable to respond to calls in ambulances because they might run out.
Some garages imposed £30 limits on top-ups, while drivers reported motorway services had shut.
And fears Britain’s second largest oil refinery was in difficulty triggered fresh concern.
Fuel itself is NOT in short supply – but tanker drivers and delivery people are.
And although the Government will today outline plans to give 5,000 temporary visas to foreign drivers, experts warned the crisis affecting filling stations and supplies on shop shelves could go on for weeks, or even months.
Motoring madness broke out despite the fact only 100 of 8,350 filling stations in the UK have closed because of shortages.
Worrying reports came in from ambulance services, individual medics and police forces nationwide.
Student paramedic Jennifer Ward, 21, works for Medicare EMS, which provides 999 frontline support to the East of England ambulance service.
She went to five filling stations before finally getting diesel for her ambulance in Chelmsford, Essex. Jennifer said: “I could be sent anywhere and I could have had no fuel.”
An off-duty ambulance paramedic said she waited more than an hour to buy fuel to get to work – only to be turned away when stocks ran out, with 10 other drivers still ahead of her.
The woman also said a colleague waited in a queue for more than an hour in a first-response vehicle to refuel his car.
She said: “The net result: He was unavailable to attend very ill patients.”
South Central Ambulance Service, which covers Hampshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, said crews had been held up for “some time” by filling station jams.
Police had to be called in to manage queues at some forecourts and head off confrontations.
On Friday night, two men clashed at an Esso garage in Sidlesham, West Sussex.
Witness James Curry said: “There was still diesel and petrol available, but a couple of gents were concerned some people were taking diesel which they needed.
“There was a bit of shouting before punches got thrown and there was a scuffle.”
Police said drivers were queueing for fuel “across South Wales.”
A force spokesperson said: “Keeping highways clear is essential for emergency services,… hindering them poses a public safety risk.”
In Lincolnshire, police urged drivers: “We ask motorists to be sensible about joining a queue at a petrol station. If it is too long, consider returning at a different time.”
Motorists who filled up spare cans can were slammed by motoring groups.
RAC media chief Simon Williams said: “People selfishly taking it in cans could be depriving drivers of fuel they need to get to work or carry out important jobs. There has clearly been panic buying which is going to cause more problems than were necessary.”
AA chief Edmund King said: “We were in discussions with ministers last night and talked to major fuel companies and we can reiterate there is not a problem with supply at the source. What has exacerbated it is people filling up when they… don’t need to.”
Sainsbury’s, which shut 20 petrol stations on Friday, said yesterday some sites were reopening after deliveries. BP has shut 20 garages and is rationing fuel at up to 100 more. The EG Group, which has 341 petrol stations, has a £30 limit.
ExxonMobil, the oil firm behind Esso, said forecourts it operates at some Tesco stores have been affected.
But Tesco said it was not rationing fuel.
Some drivers on motorways were shocked to see “services closed” signs. A woman returning from France said: “It was very worrying.”
Stanlow oil refinery in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, is in urgent talks with HMRC over a £356million VAT bill.
Stanlow, which supplies one-sixth of Britain’s road fuel, is owned by tycoon brothers Shashi and Ravi Ruia, through their company Essar Oil UK. The company, which employs 1,700, said: “Positive discussions are ongoing.”
There was hilarity amid the mayhem as the BBC dispatched Phil McCann to cover the crisis. Breakfast host Jon Kay said: “We can go to our reporter Phil McCann, and somebody on Twitter Phil suggesting your name isn’t the best… because you can’t fill your can.”
Social media reacted and McCann posted: “There are worse reasons to trend on Twitter.”