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Page last updated at 16:33 GMT, Tuesday, 10 June 2008 17:33 UK

Shortages bite in Spanish strike

A Spanish petrol station is shut after running out of fuel
Panic-buying has begun to set in, cleaning out petrol stations

A growing number of petrol stations in Spain are running out of fuel, as lorry drivers continue to blockade major cities in a protest over diesel prices.

With the strike in its second day, worried motorists cleaned garages out of fuel, and some food markets have also started running out of produce.

Catalan authorities are using their own tankers to re-supply garages.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has cancelled engagements to deal with the strike.

There's been no hostility and it is rather good-natured
James Barber
English driver stuck in Spain

There has been no agreement in talks between the government and representatives of Fenadismer, the transport association which says 90,000 self-employed lorry drivers have joined the strike.

The union complains that the price of diesel has soared by more than 20% this year, and is calling for the government to enforce a minimum price for haulage, to prevent firms being undercut.

Mr Zapatero has offered truckers emergency credit and early retirement incentives, but refuses to set minimum tariffs, saying they must accept fair competition.

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Protesters force goods out of lorries belonging to strike-breakers.

Although the largest hauliers' union has not joined the strike, some non-striking drivers found their passage blocked - and in some cases their windscreens smashed - by those who were.

'Go-slow'

Queues several kilometres long formed on the French side of the border, with strikers refusing to let foreign lorries enter the country.

Empty shelves at a Madrid supermarket
Some supermarkets have already started running out of food

Drivers told the BBC News website that strikers were also checking cars and vans. Any that were carrying "goods" were made to stop, while those that were not were allowed to pass.

There were long tailbacks behind lorries carrying out "go-slow" protests outside Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Alicante and other major cities.

Spaniards fearing fuel shortages tried to fill their tanks, causing long queues at petrol stations and exhausting supplies.

Supplier groups said 40% of garages in the Catalonia region had run out of fuel, and 15% of those in Madrid.

The Catalan authorities used tankers to transport fuel to empty stations, under police protection.

Panic buying

A BBC News website reader in Gibraltar, Lucie Goss, said the British territory was "utter chaos, with Spanish and local drivers queuing at the fuel stations, panic-buying".

She said a supermarket delivery lorry had been attacked by pickets, and that fresh food was running out.

EUROPEAN FUEL PROTESTS
map
Belgium: Fishermen clash with police at protest near EU on 4 June
Bulgaria:150 lorry drivers form convoy outside Sofia on 28 May
France: Lorries and taxis block motorway in Paris on 3 May in support of strike by fishermen
Italy: Fishermen on both coasts begin strike on 30 May
Portugal: Portuguese fishermen stay in port on 30 May
Spain: Spanish fleet begins strike on 30 May. Madrid fishermen hand out 20 tonnes of free fish to public
UK: Truck drivers block London roads on 28 May. Fishermen hold mass protest in capital on 3 June

Queues were reported at supermarkets in Spain and in Portugal, where some lorry drivers have launched their own strike.

"We are the ones who move the goods that this country needs to keep working. If we stop because we haven't got the money to buy fuel then the country will stop," said Julio Villascusa, president of Fenadismer.

The hauliers' action follows the lead of British truckers, and Spanish and French fishermen, many of whom have been on strike because of the soaring price of fuel.

Three car manufacturers - Nissan, Mercedes Benz and Seat - said they were suspending factory operations because their supplies of parts had been cut.

There was also very little lorry traffic at Mercamadrid, the main wholesale food market in the Spanish capital, the Associated Press news agency reported.

But the government dismissed fears of shortages, saying it would guarantee market supplies.

It says it hopes to have an assistance package ready to offer the sector within days.


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