By Ahmed Elumami.
Tripoli, 12 December 2013:
Many of Tripoli’s petrol stations remained closed today as the fuel crisis spread to other towns . . .[restrict]in the region. Queues have started appearing in Khoms and Tarhouna to where increasing numbers of desperate Tripoli residents have been driving to fill up. To relieve the pressure on their own stations, the authorities in Khoms have been seizing containers with petrol from vehicles heading to the capital.
One Tripoli resident who had been to Khoms to stock up on fuel told the Libya Herald today that guards at the Ghut Roman checkpoint just east of Khoms had seized the 20-litre can which he had just filled with petrol.
Petrol stations in the capital have been refusing to reopen unless provided with adequate security after attacks from irate drivers who had been waiting hours for fuel.
The queues were the result of mass panic buying following unfounded rumours that petrol supplies were running out.
At a press conference yesterday, Oil and Gas Minister Abdulbari Al-Arusi reiterated the government assurance that there was petrol available for weeks ahead and that distribution to petrol stations was continuing normally. The crisis, he claimed, was the result of the power cuts stopping petrol pumps from working. In addition, he said, there were some “abusers and vandals who smashed the fuel pumps inside petrol stations”.
Two days ago, it was announced that forces had been deployed to provide protection at petrol stations for employees and the public alike, but many stations have remained closed because no security was provided.
Today, the spokesman of Tripoli Security Directorate, Essam Naas, told this newspaper that security forces were now deployed at eight petrol stations and that the number would be increased in the next few days to ensure fuel for everyone who wanted it.
“It’s so stupid,” said one local businessman who did not want to be named. “They are just keeping the crisis going. It is not difficult to provide all the petrol stations in Tripoli with guards. They only need to do it for two or three days. They won’t be needed after that. The panic buying will be stop and the queues vanish.”
“It is very unfortunate that the capital is experiencing such a difficult time, with electricity cuts and no fuel,” local resident Alaa Mohamed said. “It is making daily life in Tripoli impossible.” He added that he thought there were “hidden hands and a political game” behind the current crisis.
That view, although there is no evidence for it, is held by a significant number of local people. “Tripoli is being punished for throwing out the militias,” confided one senior petrol station company official. He did not want his name in print and would not provide proof to back up his claim, but he seemed to genuinely believe it. [/restrict]