From Abdullahi Tasiu Abubakar in London
Long queues at petrol stations, threat of violence and verbal abuse of petrol attendants have emerged a new pattern in Britain as the country struggles with fuel shortages.
A few streets in London are gridlocked as motorists searched for fuel, with some people moving around with gallons and water bottles – a replica of Nigeria during its petrol shortage days.
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The UK government and petrol retailers said they have adequate petrol in the country but have no enough lorry drivers to deliver it to petrol stations.
Brexit, pandemic, ageing tanker drivers and poor treatment of the drivers are blamed for the problem.
Britain’s saving grace, however, is its effective public transport system – with trains and buses running continuously and saving commuters from potential hardship.
This is what prevents many from feeling the impact. But the problem has hit the country’s currency, the pound sterling, which has been losing some of value in the last few days, though modestly.
It also triggers fears of pump-price increase, aided by increase in crude prices in the world market and the fall in pound’s value.
The chairman of Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), Brian Madderson, has also warned the government about a planned increase in price.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Simon Clarke, has claimed that the “crisis is now absolutely something which is back under control”, but retailers have disputed this.
“The surge in demand appears to be continuing,” the retailers chairman says. “There’s been no easing off of the pressure from drivers wanting to refuel whenever they can, wherever they can.”
Panic-buying itself is part of what the government blames for the current situation. Video footage of a man wielding knife and people shouting to one another in rows over getting fuel circulate in social media and is being used by some broadcast outlets.
Many petrol station employees have reported being subjected to physical and verbal abuse.
The executive director of the retailers’ association Gordon Balmer says some staff have received a “high level” of physical and verbal abuse from motorists.
He condemns the abuse and says: “It is important to remember that fuel stocks remain normal at refineries and terminals, and deliveries have been reduced solely due to the shortage of HGV drivers.”.
The government has announced that it would provide temporary UK visas to 5,000 fuel tanker and food lorry drivers on Christmas eve.
But many say this is inadequate, and there are reports that many potential lorry drivers from Europe, who are targeted with the visas, do not have interest in applying for them because they are short-term visas.