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Lengthy queues build outside gas stations in London again amid UK fuel crisis

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Vehicles queue to refill outside a Texaco fuel station in Hemel Hempstead, Britain, on September 29, 2021. (Photo by Reuters)

Lengthy queues have been reportedly formed outside gas stations throughout London once again amid a fuel crisis gripping the United Kingdom.

Long queues were witnessed outside gas stations in north London as well as the capital’s busy M25 orbital motorway on Wednesday, according to Reuters journalists, along with warnings that no fuel was available at some sites.

This came despite British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s efforts to quell public concerns after several gas stations in Britain ran dry because of panic buying and a shortage of drivers.

Johnson said the situation is starting to improve and that supplies were returning to normal, while urging people not to panic buy and to go about their business "in the normal way," and to "fill up when you need it."

"All we want to do is make sure that we have all the preparations necessary to get through to Christmas and beyond, not just in the supply of petrol stations, but all parts of our supply chain," he said.

"We've seen the global economy really sucking in a huge amount of demand for gas, for lorry drivers – there are shortages around the world. It’s affecting countries across the world, but we've got to make sure we have everything in place as the recovery continues," he added.

Since last week, several petrol stations in Britain have closed as their ability to transport fuel from refineries was hit by an industry-wide shortage of truck drivers.

The driver shortage has also caused widespread disruption to Britain’s vital supply chains, namely the food sector.

The British oil giant BP temporarily closed some of its 1,200 petrol stations earlier last week, triggering long queues at some stations in London and Kent as motorists rushed in an attempt to fill up.

The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), which represents independent fuel suppliers, was at pains to confirm that as many as two-thirds of the 5,500 service stations operated by its members have run out of fuel, with the rest of them “partly dry and running out soon.”

On Tuesday, the UK army was put on standby to supply the country’s petrol stations after a shortage of truck drivers forced some to close, triggering a spate of panic buying.

Media reports suggest that 150 British army tanker drivers, which the government has put on standby, could be deployed in the next few days.

Meanwhile, pictures on social media showed some people filling up old water bottles with fuel, while fights broke out at some forecourts as drivers pushed for petrol.

Drivers have been forced to wait in line for hours at the pumps that are still open, and local media have reported instances of violence between irate customers as tensions rise.

The long lines and confusion are causing extra stress for people with disabilities.

Hundreds of forecourts have also remained closed in many regions across Britain, and motorists are still waiting in queues to fill their tanks.

There are growing fears now that the UK could be heading into a second “winter of discontent” with shelves expected to be emptier than usual in the run-up to Christmas.

Under an emergency plan considered by Johnson’s government, up to 5,500 foreign truck drivers are set to be granted temporary work visas, while competition law is suspended in order to allow suppliers to deliver fuel to rival operators.

The post-Brexit strict national rules, along with the crisis caused by the pandemic, have left the UK facing a shortage of truck drivers as tens of thousands of EU nationals have left trucking jobs and other occupations in the UK. According to the Road Haulage Association, there is a shortage of around 100,000 truck drivers in the country, which has led to the rise of fuel prices.

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