Fuel crisis plunges Portugal into chaos just days before Easter

There is no end in sight to the strike that has plunged Portugal into a full-blown “fuel crisis”, with reports of nearly 3,000 stations having run out of fuel.

As drivers formed endless queues at petrol stations on Tuesday to try to fill up their tanks before supply runs out, union officials met with the government only to walk away with no agreement and the guarantee that truck drivers tasked with transporting ‘dangerous materials’ will only “assure minimum services”.

Only hospitals, airports and security services will have 100% of their usual fuel supply guaranteed until the strike comes to an end. The government has already officially declared a situation of “energy crisis”.

All over Portugal petrol stations have been closing after running out of fuel. Drivers are desperately trying to get every drop of petrol that they can into their vehicles as no one knows when, and if, tanker trucks will be replenishing stations’ fuel supply. Some have been forming queues as early as 5am.

The chaotic situation has extended to the Algarve. Yesterday in Lagoa, traffic police had to be called into action at one of the town’s main roundabouts as the queues for the petrol stations were completely blocking traffic. Social media has been flooded with requests for information about which stations still have fuel.

What’s even more worrying is that if a solution is not found soon, the situation is only expected to worsen. SNMMP – the national syndicate of drivers of dangerous materials – has said that it won’t resume its normal activity until the government meets its demands.

At the heart of the strike is the demand for better salaries, a specific professional category and better conditions for overtime and nightime work.

It is the kind of national crisis that the government wanted to avoid on the week before Easter, a holiday which, as President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa has pointed out, sees thousands of Portuguese heading south for an Easter getaway.

Marcelo says he is “following the situation” and hopes that the talks between the government and the union officials will bear fruit soon.

As Público newspaper asks, “did anyone expect this strike to wreak the havoc that it has in Portugal? The answer to this and many other questions is no.”

Meantime, a website has been created to inform people of which petrol station have already run out of fuel. The information is sent by citizens and verified by the people running the website.


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