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The BBC's Robert Hall
"So far, not much good news"
 real 56k

Liam Olliff, of transport group Transfigoroute UK
"We are saying to various supermarkets 'I'm sorry we cannot deliver to you'"
 real 56k

Thursday, 14 September, 2000, 15:12 GMT 16:12 UK
Crisis continues as fuel blockades lift
Petrol stations await fuel supplies
It could be weeks before fuel flows freely at garages
Britain remains crippled by the fuel crisis despite the lifting of blockades across the country.

The effects of the crisis could be felt for weeks and businesses will not get back to normal until the middle of next week, the Confederation of Business Industry (CBI) has warned.


It is the middle of next week before things will get back to normal

Digby Jones, CBI

Emergency and essential services will be the first to receive fuel, but it could be days before the public can get fuel from many petrol stations.

The NHS in England remains on red alert and thousands of children have been sent home because of school closures.

More than three-quarters of Britain's petrol stations have run dry and tankers will have to make thousands of deliveries before petrol is flowing freely again.

Tankers have begun to leave depots with fuel to replenish petrol stations but the task could take weeks.

The situation at petrol stations across the UK is:

  • Esso's "vast majority" of 1,620 service stations are closed
  • Total said 99% of outlets are without fuel
  • Only 30 of Shell's 1,100 garages have petrol
  • BP says 1,100 of its 1,500 forecourts are closed
  • Texaco says 1,350 of its 1,500 outlets are dry

But Shell UK's chairman, Malcolm Brinded, said 300 petrol stations would be supplied with fuel by the end of the Thursday and oil companies have said at least 20% of the national network would be restored within 48 hours.

Mr Brinded, speaking after an emergency meeting with Tony Blair at 10 Downing Street, said the supply situation was easing.

"We were able to tell the prime minister that 300 designated sites for essential supplies should by the end of the day be supplied," he said.

But Ray Holloway of the Petrol Retailers Association said these initial deliveries were not going to resolve fuel shortage problems.


It's going to take us two to three weeks to get back to normal levels

Ray Holloway, Petrol Retailers Association

He added: "It's going to take us two to three weeks to get back to normal levels."

CBI director general Digby Jones told the BBC that the lifting of the blockade was "very good news for business and very good news for jobs".

"I would hope that the country could now be getting back to normal," he added.

Many firms have had to lay off workers and others have been affected by staff being unable to get to the office.

'Fears eased'

The continuing shortage of petrol is causing major problems for supermarkets, hospitals, schools, postal services and public transport.

Supermarkets have reported panic buying and some warned supplies could run out "in days rather than weeks".

Some supermarkets have been rationing basic supplies such as bread and milk.

Empty shelves at supermarkets
Supermarkets call for end to panic buying
A spokesman for Sainsbury's told BBC News Online: "The thing that has been driving demand has been excessive buying.

"Hopefully, the lifting of the crisis will ease the fears of the public and buying will return to normal levels."

'NHS still on alert'

The NHS has warned that it continues to be under massive pressure and the alert will remain in place for some days.

Ambulance services across the UK are only answering emergency calls and several hospitals have cancelled non-emergency operations.


It is too early to say when non-emergency operations can continue

NHS spokesman

An NHS spokesman told BBC News Online: "It is too early to say when non-emergency operations can continue, we are expecting to see quite a lot of impact from this."

A spokesman for Manchester Health Authority said: "The situation would have got serious if the blockades had not been lifted in a few days' time, but the supplies do now seem to be coming through."

Schools across the country are closing, amid fears that they do not have the number of teachers to ensure pupil safety.

Almost 19,000 pupils in Rhondda Cynon Taff, in south Wales, have been give two days off as 18 of the county's 19 secondary schools have closed.

And more than 370 children in Birmingham and pupils in Bolton have been affected by school closures.

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See also:

14 Sep 00 | UK
UK fuel blockades tumble
13 Sep 00 | Health
NHS pressures to continue
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