At least 50 service stations in KwaZulu-Natal and 150 in Gauteng were without fuel, the Fuel Retailers Association reports today.

THE petrol shortage around the country was worsening quicker than expected – many stations have run dry, and there’s no end in sight.

At least 50 service stations in KwaZulu-Natal and 150 in Gauteng were without fuel, the Fuel Retailers’ Association reported today.

“These were the figures by the close of business yesterday,” said association chief executive Reggie Sibiya.

“But these are just reported figures. Some service stations are not reporting anything for fear of intimidation, so it could probably be that between 200 to 250 service stations are without fuel in Gauteng.”

Sibiya believed refineries had underplayed figures.

He said the countrywide strike had crippled the economy and was “bleeding” businesses.

“Fuel retailers, for example, operate on a regulated margin. We cannot change the pump prices and we cannot recover the costs.”

Talks are ongoing with no progress being made, he said.

“We are helpless. We don’t see any progress at all and we don’t know when this strike will end.

“It is almost the end of the week, and we are without results.”

Automobile Association spokesman Gary Ronald said the fuel shortages were more widespread than initially anticipated.

“It has spread faster than in previous years. I think what has happened now is that the contingency plans by the refineries have not worked as well as they thought they would.”

He said that this year motorists were listening to the warnings ahead of the strike and had rushed to top up their tanks for the weeks ahead.

“If a lot of people did that, the demand for fuel would have increased and supply decreased, and now there is not enough supply available for everybody. This accelerated the shortages.

“But some stations had refuelled overnight.”

Today, Mayville station Chess BP reported it had been dry since yesterday and was trying to organise deliveries.

“We don’t know when we will be getting more fuel,” said an employee who did not want to be named.

At Caltex Gateway, said general manager Ginny Stroebel, diesel had run out this morning.

“We have, however, received a delivery of unleaded petrol (ULP) and our LRP stocks seem fine,” she said.

She said yesterday that they were selling fuel at almost double their usual demand.

Athlone Park Service Station said their fuel stocks “were still fine”.

Employees at service stations that had a low supply of fuel said what little they had would only last them until later today and were likely to run dry long before receiving delivery.

A Northlands service station manager said fuel tanks were running dry much faster than expected because there was an influx of motorists filling up.

He said that ULP was the first fuel to run dry and while Caltex was sourcing fuel from depots outside of Durban, the possibility of receiving a delivery was slim for most service stations because of the increased demand that could not be met.

Ronald said Engen Refinery was the only company being upfront about its shortages, while other companies downplayed them.

The Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood, and Allied Workers’ Union (Ceppwawu) said the strike was ongoing.

“It will go into next week because no talks are taking place,” said co-ordinator John Appolis.

He said employers in the petroleum sector were more difficult than the other sectors.

“They are not responding and not proposing anything.

“It’s because the fuel employers are the big multinational companies. They dominate the industries and economies and are expanded throughout the world. All we are asking is for R6 000 a month. That’s not a lot.”

He claimed that Sasol’s executive director had earned R19.7 million last year and that it would take a minimum wage worker 409 years to earn that.

Sasol spokeswoman Nothemba Noruwana was not immediately available for comment.

Engen spokeswoman Tania Landsberg said she was due to get updates on the fuel shortages across the country today.

Internet users provided a list of service stations that had fuel supply on today.

The page called #gotpetrol was started on popular social networking site Twitter by Andy Parks.

The names of services stations with fuel, the street name and city were being tweeted since early morning hours.

“Total garage William Nicoll JHB near Sandton drive,” wrote Sarah Theron.

“Just filled up at Caltex next to Bryanston Shopping Centre (just off Grosvenor)... Looks like they only had 93 Unleaded,” said another, Jon Hoehler.

Tweets were streaming through quickly from various parts of the country.

Some users gave their views on the strike by fuel workers, while others cracked jokes about it.

“Did u know jhb has a petrol station almost every 2kms....they missing one important thing wait I know FUEL,” tweeted Brenz2011.

“The strikes have barely started and people already struggling to get petrol. Wonder how long this will last? Anyway, it spells chaos,” wrote Marynamoore.

Ronald said the Twitter feed was useful and well thought out. – Sapa