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French petrol stations run out of fuel as blockade goes on
Photo: AFP

French petrol stations run out of fuel as blockade goes on

Ben McPartland · 23 May 2016, 08:22

Published: 23 May 2016 08:22 GMT+02:00

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France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls has vowed to “liberate” the fuel depots that are being blockaded as part of the ongoing protest movement against the government's labour reforms.

But with workers at six out of the country’s eight refineries on strike, the protests were beginning to bite at the petrol pumps.

Activists have also blockaded 189 fuel depots for several days, though police have since cleared protesters from some them, reported the AFP. 
Motorists ignored pleas not to panic and formed long queues at service stations to fill up their tanks over the weekend fearing a shortage of fuel.

With 1,600 petrol stations out of a total of 12,000 having run out of fuel or running low, the queues of worried drivers are likely to only increase in the coming days.

While France's Transport Minister Alain Vidalies has tried to quell all talk of any fuel shortages he admitted on Monday that 800 petrol stations were out of fuel and 800 were running low.

READ ALSO: Which parts of France are most hit by fuel shortages?

Which parts of France are most hit by fuel shortages?

And the French public are feeling the brunt of the militant action.

One reader of The Local said: "No fuel available for 50km around me. I can't go to work."

Sheelagh Gorham said: "We are restricted to 25 litres maximum here in the Manche (Normandy) with some garages already closed."

There were also reports of tempers flaring at petrol stations with staff being attacked.

Julie, a resident of Lille in northern France told Europe1 radio: “I looked for petrol all over the weekend. I went to every petrol station, but it just wasn’t possible, there are shortages everywhere,” 

“I have to go to work, I have 30 kilometres to go and I have got no more fuel. I will breakdown. It’s a nightmare,” she said.

The north-west of the country was initially the hardest hit but the blockades have since spread across the country. On Monday the blockade continued at the Fos-sur-Mer depot on the south coast of France( see photo).

Out of the 2,200 petrol stations run by French oil giant Total, 509 were either completely or partially out of fuel on Monday - 76 in the Paris region, 73 in the Nord-Pas-de Calais, 60 in Brittany and as many in Normandy.

(Photo: AFP)

And the hardline CGT union which has orchestrated the protest has vowed to carry on until it gets what it wants.

“We won’t move unless the labour reforms bill is scrapped,” Emmanuel Lépine, from the CGT told RMC radio. "It will go on at least this week."

Which means the government may have to use force to break the blockade.

PM Valls however insists everything is under control and that there was no risk of a fuel shortage.

"We have the situation fully under control. I think that some of the refineries and depots that were blocked are unblocked or will be in the coming hours and days," Prime Minister Valls told reporters during a visit in Israel.

"In any case, we have the reserves to deal with these blockades."

The country's Finance Minister Michel Sapin slammed the CGT union for "holding the French people to ransom".

Story continues below…

"The CGT is no longer interested in dialogue, only blockades," he said before warning that France would use "all the means at its disposal" to ensure there is no shortage of fuel.

Debbie Pedrayes, an expat living in St Sébastien sur Loire (just outside of Nantes), said that while she has enough fuel for the week, things are about to get "really complicated".
"A lot of expats are shocked by the fact that the government is allowing this to happen," she told The Local. 
"I am so sick of the fact that the French are always protesting. Change needs to come to this country in order to make it more competitive in the global marketplace. There are people like myself that just want to earn a living, and we are being held hostage by idiots afraid of losing their 'entitlements'."
Several departments imposed fuel restrictions per vehicle and some banned filling up extra fuel in jerrycans. Other petrol stations have reportedly placed restrictions on the amount people can spend on fuel.

France faced another week of disruption to its transport services with protests against the labour reforms set to continue.


Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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