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Fuel crisis eases as French police unblock depots

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Fuel crisis eases as French police unblock depots
Tires on fire in front of an oil depot near the Total refinery of Donges, western France, on Friday. Photo: AFP
17:26 CEST+02:00
The French government said on Friday that all but one of the blocked fuel depots in had been cleared, after union activists had blocked many off as part of labour protests.
You may have been given the impression that France has tun out of fuel, but things aren't actually that bad. 
 
Even though six of France's eight oil refineries are shut down or operating at a reduced capacity, the petrol shortages seem to be abating, as blockades are being cleared and the public panic is dissipating.  
 
"Blockades have been removed at all the depots, except for the depot at Gargenville (in the Paris area), which is on strike," a transport ministry spokesman said.
   
Police cleared 15 depots out of around 100 nationwide.
   
"Unblocking these depots will allow an increase in delivery capacity to resupply more and more petrol stations," the spokesman added.
   
He said around a fifth of French petrol stations were still facing shortages following a week of strikes and blockades called by unions protesting against labour law reforms.
Renting a car in fuel-starved France? No need to panic
 
At one point during the week, there were up to 40 percent of stations facing shortages, according to some reports, meaning things are showing a very sure sign of improvement in time for the weekend. 
 
The other key reason for improvements is that the public panic has abated. 
 
The finance minister said earlier in the week that "talking about a shortage creates the shortage". In other words, motorists who were rushing to stock up needlessly with fuel were simply helping to make the pumps run dry. 
 
Frédéric Plan, the spokesperson for French fuel union FF3C, told BFMTV that "the worst of this has passed".
 
"The crisis was't a product of people's irrational behavior - but it clearly made it worse. It's at a resorption phase now," he said.
 
French fuel strikes:  A tedious 'tantrum' or a 'sacred' duty?
 
Still, despite the improvements, France is still a long way from normal, as the map below of petrol stations with fuel shows. On top of this, petrol stations around the country have been hiking their prices - in some places as much as by 30 centimes a litre. 

British motoring groups have suggested that those coming from abroad - especially Britain - should fill up their tanks before crossing the Channel, rather than expecting to fill up with cheap French fuel on arrival.  

They also advised motorists to keep their tanks topped up regularly, to follow the information of apps available, and to economise on fuel. Read more of their tips here, and see the top five free apps for finding petrol here. Oh, and expect some lengthy queues.
 
And if you do have to get somewhere this weekend, be sure to read our guide before setting off. 
 
 
Interactive map: Where to find petrol in France
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