Petrol stations in south Lebanon close as shortages fuel violence

Owners say they are being made scapegoats as motorists fight for scarce fuel

Gas shortage in Lebanon fuelling unrest

Gas shortage in Lebanon fuelling unrest
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Petrol stations in south Lebanon closed on Monday to protest against attacks on owners and staff over shortages of fuel.

Long lines have been forming in front of fuel pumps throughout the country, causing chaos and traffic jams, after they began rationing petrol this month.

Petrol station owners in the southern city of Tyre said they had become “scapegoats of the national fuel crisis”.

The owners' association said they would “close for two days due to pressure and to avoid repeated attacks, the latest of which happened on Saturday”.

The strike is the latest example of growing public frustration at the state’s inability to manage increasing shortages of necessities in Lebanon, contributing to a security breakdown in parts of the country.

There have been three violent incidents at fuel pumps in Tyre over three days, with similar incidents becoming more frequent nationally.

Two weeks ago, an Egyptian petrol station worker was shot dead in north Lebanon during a fight over whose turn it was to fill up their tank.

Many motorists wait in line for hours to buy a fraction of their fuel needs.

Taxi driver Mohamed, 35, said he waited 40 minutes to fill his tank in Baabda, a Beirut suburb.

But the fuel pump allowed customers to buy only 10 litres, less than a quarter of his car’s capacity.

“How am I supposed to make a living if I can’t even fill my tank?” Mohamed asked.

Lebanon has been suffering from fuel shortages since a severe economic crisis hit the country a year and a half ago.

Dwindling foreign currency reserves have limited the state’s ability to import fuel and other essentials.

Fearing worse shortages to come, many are hoarding petrol and low-grade diesel used for electricity generators to compensate for growing power cuts.

Toufic, a taxi company owner, said that “everyone is hoarding” for fear that the state would no longer be able to provide them with basic necessities.

“People either keep a few gallons at home or fill entire reservoirs in their buildings,” Toufic said.

Lebanon has lived with electricity cuts for decades but they have worsened in the past year because of the crisis.

Siham, 70, said her building had installed two new tanks to store diesel for generators in anticipation of more shortages.

“With all the shortages we are forced to buy the extra oil,” Siham said. “We don’t want to wind up without any electricity."