‘Don’t panic’ urge petrol retailers

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PETROL stations say there’s no need for this week’s panic buying spurred by ministers’ ‘advice’.

A senior fire officer has also warned of the safety risks in following Cabinet minister Francis Maude’s advice to stock up by filling jerrycans.

Even the Prime Minister was suggesting on Tuesday that people should ‘take precautions’ in case of a tanker driver strike.

By Wednesday lunchtime Bury St Edmunds Asda had run out of fuel and forecourts were heaving.

Drivers were taking 30 minutes to get on to Bury Sainsbury’s forecourt which put up ‘no diesel’ signs that evening.

Peter Rose, manager of Tayfen Autopoint, in Bury, said yesterday that he expected to run out of diesel by midday but had been promised a tanker during the afternoon.

“We’ve been doing double what we normally do,” he said. “It’s not necessary but because the Prime Minister said to go and fill up your jerrycans, that’s what people are doing.

“It will only be a problem if it continues. In the end what will happen is there will be a backlog of tankers not being able to meet deliveries.”

At Mildenhall’s Forestford Jet garage managing director Alister McFarquhar ran out on Wednesday afternoon, having sold about 50 per cent more than usual, but had a delivery by 11am yesterday and another booked for Monday.

“It makes sense to prepare for a shortage but that creates a spike in demand which we can’t easily cope with,” he said. “There will be enough deliveries, in spite of industrial action, to keep the country going.”

Suffolk Fire Service duty area commander Paul Collins said: “We would strongly dissuade people from storing fuel. If we attend a fire it will be putting lives at risk because we won’t know it’s there.”

Suffolk Trading Standards and Fire Service have jointly clarified the regulations for storing petrol at home. Petrol can be kept in a domestic garage or outbuilding, but there are restrictions on the amount that can be stored.

The only permitted combinations of two approved containers are one suitable 10 litre metal container and one five litre approved plastic container (totalling 15 litres), or two five litre approved plastic containers (only 10 litres can be kept if plastic containers are used)

The containers used must be robust, marked with their contents and have tight fitting lids to prevent leakage of liquid or vapour. They must also be stored securely – ideally they should be locked up and kept away from any combustible material. Under no circumstances should petrol be stored inside the home.

Councillor Colin Spence, Suffolk County Council’s Portfolio Holder for Public Protection said; “We strongly advise against the bulk buying and storage of petrol. It is an incredibly dangerous substance. Petrol vapour is invisible and leakages can travel significant distances to find a source of ignition. We are advising people to conserve current fuel stocks by avoiding unnecessary journeys.”

There are no restrictions on storing diesel because it does not easily ignite but the council suggests sticking to the rulkes for petrol to reduce the risk of fumes and of pollution from leaks.