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Fuel Strike: Panic-Buying Petrol Causes Forecourt Chaos (PICTURES)

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Long queues are forming outside petrol stations across Britain as panic-buying among motorists escalates in the face of a possible tanker strike.

Some forecourts have declared that their stocks have been run dry by panic buying, while police in Dorset ordered a number of petrol stations to close over fears of a major fuel shortage.

A petrol station in Southbourne, Bournemouth was closed by police, after an argument broke out in the queue of cars waiting to enter the forecourt.

A motorist in Ilkley, Yorkshire, was asked to leave the forecourt of one garage after he snatched the pump out of the hand of a female driver, an eyewitness said.

Drivers queue for petrol and diesel at an ESSO service station near Christchurch, Dorset

Chief Inspector Nick Maton of Dorset Police said “The actions of some motorists in queuing irresponsibly at petrol stations is causing danger to other road users.

“Police are taking action, requesting petrol stations to close temporarily in order to keep traffic flowing.

He added: “Once the queues have dispersed, the petrol stations may re-open for short periods.”

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There are concerns that despite peace talks between unions and oil tankers, the threat of a national fuel strike is likely over Easter weekend.

In London, fire engines were called to a petrol station on the King's Road after a van driver overfilled his tank, causing fuel to spill all over the forecourt.

One van driver in Leeds said he had been waiting for 30 minutes to get fuel while in Harrogate a forecourt on the outskirts of the town had run out of fuel by 11.30am.

A person fills up petrol tanks at a petrol station in Linlithgow

The government has come under fire, with accusations flying at Francis Maude for starting the chaos, after he suggested that motorists keep their tanks topped up and fill up jerry cans in case conciliation talks failed.

Jon Hall, chief fire officer for both Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service and Gloucestershire Trading Standards, called for the Tory minister to withdraw his comments, concerned over householders stockpiling petrol in anticipation of a possible tanker drivers' strike

"This is potentially extremely dangerous as petrol is not only highly flammable, but is also explosive under some circumstances.

"In addition, there are strict legal requirements for the storage of this type of fuel and a householder may commit an offence by not storing petrol safely."

Police tell a manager of a Total station to close

The Petrol Retailers Association, which represents about 5,500 garages, blamed advice from the Government on keeping tanks topped up

A spokesman said: "This is exactly what we didn't want - people panic-buying. Deliveries are still being made to garages and we are advising people to continue with their normal buying habits."

Halfords have said that sales of jerry cans have "soared" with sales up 225% compared to last year, and motorists buying in "the thousands."

“Sales started rising dramatically after the government issued their warning and advised motorists to fill up” said Halfords commercial director Paul MClenaghan.

However the seven day notification included in strike laws mean that if oil tankers are to stage industrial action over Easter, they need to provide notification by 5pm on Friday.

As conciliation service Acas has announced that talks over the tanker drivers' dispute will not be held before Monday, a strike over Easter weekend seems unlikely.

Acas has said its officials have been in contact with the Unite union and seven distribution companies involved in the row in a bid to convene a meeting and head off the threat of industrial action.

That process should be concluded by Monday and substantive discussions should follow shortly afterwards, Acas announced.

Sales of fuel from panic-buying by motorists just on Wednesday will bring in more than £32 million in extra fuel excise duty.

The AA calculated the figure after petrol sales shot up by 81% and diesel by 43% as motorists flocked to garages across the UK to fill up following advice from ministers.

Meanwhile baggage handlers at Stansted Airport are to strike over Easter in a row over pay, threatening disruption to passengers flying on holiday for the spring break.

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