Fearing shortages, the French rush to fill up at petrol stations

6 min

Fearing a fuel shortage due to the ongoing strikes against pension reform, many French motorists are rushing to petrol stations to fill up. FRANCE 24 reports from Paris’ 15th arrondissement.


Fearing a fuel shortage due to ongoing nationwide strikes against pension reform prompted many drivers in France to rush to petrol stations that were still open on Monday, despite a message of reassurance from French Prime Minister Francois Fillon.

Speaking on France’s TF1 television on Sunday night, he told the nation: "There will be no shortage (...) I will not let our country be blocked.” But the prime minister does not appear to have convinced the French.


The situation in petrol stations has been worsening since petrol and diesel supplies started to run short on Friday. Strikes and blockades have been held at all 12 refineries in France and fuel depots in protest of the government’s planned pension reform.

On Monday morning the refineries all decided to extend the strike. This came despite a call for "common sense" by Dominique Bussereau, the Secretary of State for Transport, who on Sunday evaluated that 200 service stations were "affected" in France. According to the Union of Independent Petroleum Importers (IPU), which is responsible for 60 percent of car fuel sales in France through supermarket chains, 1,500 stations out of 4,800 were dry. According to the IEA (International Energy Agency), France has begun to dip into its industry reserve stocks.

The website is maintaining an interactive map of France (in French) showing petrol stations with fuel shortages, and marked more than 500 service stations as being empty on Monday.

The service station at Porte d’Issy, in Paris’ 15th arrondissement, was opened on Monday morning after being resupplied during the night. FRANCE 24 interviewed several of a large number of motorists who had stopped there to refuel.



Carlo, 49, taxi driver "I have been a taxi driver for five years; it’s the first time I’ve seen this. Anyway, I’m forced to queue, I still have to work. I just hope that there’ll be some left when it's my turn. This is the third pump that I’ve tried this morning - the others were dry. So I'm losing half an hour, and money, to fill up, especially since in the morning before 9 a.m. is normally when there’s the most work.”



Christophe, 28, tow-truck driver "I started work at midnight, but as the station near my house was dry, I couldn't work. I’m really behind on my work, I still haven’t towed any cars yet. When I saw that the station had been resupplied, I came to fill up with my own car and now I’m queuing up with my work vehicle. Fortunately, they still have hot coffee at the station."



Caroline, 32, manager at La Poste (French Post Office) "This is the first time I've filled up since the beginning of the crisis. I stopped here because it was on my way and I saw they still had petrol. I live around here and I work in Seine Saint Denis. I didn’t have a choice but to queue up this morning. Anyway, despite the waiting and the cold, I keep smiling. After this I'll be sorted for the whole week."



Jean-Noel, 40, garbage collector "For me, work began at 6:10 a.m. in the morning. We have already done a first round with the petrol we had from the day before and now I’m filling up before the second collection. I’m taking time from my break to fill up the petrol, I don’t have a choice. But all this is nothing compared to the strikes of 2009 in Martinique. I remember at that time there were queues for four to five kms."



Philippe, 49, IT engineer "I already came to this station last night to try and fill up, but I gave up, there were too many people. This morning I’m standing in line like everyone else, I have a half-hour wait ahead of me. Normally I go to work on public transport, but this morning I took my wife’s scooter to fill its tank. Despite the words of reassurance from the prime minister, there is definitely a problem of petrol supply in Paris today."



Marius, 25, construction worker "The counter in my car shows me that I only have 80 km worth of petrol in my tank. I come from the suburb of Antony and there the stations are dry. Fortunately, I found this pump open on my way and my boss asked me to wait in line, even if it is a waste of time. We still work, we don’t have a choice. Without fuel, it’s as if we were working without our feet!"


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