Panic at the petrol pumps

Queue at Tesco's petrol station, St Leonards
Queue at Tesco's petrol station, St Leonards
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PANIC-BUYING has hit the petrol pumps as worried motorists stockpile fuel amid a possible shortage.

Garages across town saw a surge in demand over fears that fuel tanker drivers may strike over the Easter break in a row over working conditions and pay.

And it was reported that some motorists were involved in a scuffle at Sainsbury’s forecourt in John Macadam Way in a bid to fill their tanks.

Eddie Walsh, supervisor at Shell in Bohemia Road, said: “We were non-stop with drivers filling up yesterday (Thursday) from 7am when I arrived.

“We did run out of fuel on Wednesday as everyone seemed to be panic-buying, but a new tanker delivered more petrol in the evening.”

He said he had heard other garages in town were trying to cope with huge demand from drivers, with cars waiting in long queues.

Gerry Selvadurai, manager of Murco petrol station in Bexhill Road, St Leonards, said the pumps had not run dry at his garage by the time the Observer went to press.

But he said the previous 24 hours had been ‘very busy’ with motorists panic-buying and stockpiling on fuel.

This week’s panic-buying comes after the Government was criticised over its handling of the situation sparked by a fear of a tanker drivers’ strike.

Ministers have also been accused of sparking panic at the pumps.

Yesterday (Thursday) Ed Davey, Energy Secretary, reiterated the Government’s stance that motorists should take precautions by filling up more than normal in case fuel tanker drivers walk out.

Cabinet Minister Francis Maude’s advice for drivers to store petrol in a jerry can ignited fury from the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and the AA.

A jerry can has the capacity to hold 20 litres, more than the official limit for the amount that can be safely stored at home.

Some 90 per cent of the country’s forecourts are supplied by about 2,000 drivers.

No strike dates have been set, and the union would give a week’s notice before any action.

Andy Reynolds, director of protection and prevention for East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, said: “At present there is no reason to believe that there will be any petrol shortage and our advice to members of the public is not to store any additional supplies. However, for those people that do, please remember that petrol is classed as highly flammable and produces explosive vapour at room temperature. Treat it with care.”

It is also an offence to put more petrol in a container than the capacity of the container printed on the label. An air gap is needed because petrol expands so much when it gets warm, such as on a hot day, that it can easily rupture the container and cause a fire or explosion.

People can store up to 30 litres of petrol in two appropriate 10-litre metal containers and two appropriate five-litre plastic containers.