Oil companies say diesel shortage has fuelled petrol crisis, situation expected to improve soon with supplies arriving at some outlets

After being greeted with closed petrol bunks on Sunday, city resident J Sigamani was relieved to hear that there was an outlet open in Mylapore on Royapettah High Road. But the relief turned to despair when he saw the serpentine queue outside the outlet.

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Braving the scorching heat, over 50 motorists waited in line to fill petrol at the outlet. As it was Monday, most were in a hurry to reach their workplaces. “On Sunday, my bike ran out of petrol and I could not find fuel anywhere. One of my friends told me that the bunk in Mylapore near Valluvar Statue was open. I had to wait for more than 25 minutes before my turn came,” said Mr. Sigamani.

As the fuel crisis escalated on Monday, oil company officials said the shortage of diesel was due to an increased demand for running generators, thanks to the State's power situation. The diesel shortage has also had an impact on petrol sales, with officials saying dealers were not willing to draw only petrol from the terminal, as they wanted a combination of both fuel loads.

Long queues of frustrated and panic-stricken motorists outside the few open outlets in the city, clogged several roads. While in some places there were heated arguments amongst motorists with staff of the outlets, in some others, blows were exchanged over fuel. At a bunk on Anna Salai two persons waiting to fill petrol got into a fist fight at around 1.30 p.m.

The altercation ensued after one motorist alleged that the other had jumped the queue. The verbal duel morphed into a fight, with workers at the bunk and traffic police finally having to separate the two. “Most of the motorists get angry due to the prolonged waiting time in the queue. It is workers like me who sometimes become victims of their anger,” said a worker at a petrol bunk in Mylapore.

Workers say it is better to keep outlets closed until the fuel supply becomes normal. “There are only five staff members in the bunk. My hands have become numb filling petrol for over 500 vehicles continuously, and most motorists are impatient,” said the worker.

The snake-like queues caused traffic snarls in some parts of the city. “As vehicles started crowding into a petrol bunk opposite the Vadapalani bus terminus, the buses could not turn to get into the terminus. Due to this there was traffic congestion,” said D. Murugesh, a resident of Valsaravakkam.

Similar conditions prevailed at a bunk near the YMCA bus stop in Kottivakkam on Old Mahabalipuram Road. “Many bunks that did not have supply and had closed down on Sunday were open on Monday. Bikes are cars were spilling onto the roads and blocked traffic,” said Mr. Murugesh.

Many motorists were not even aware about the reason behind the shortage. “Some say that the bunks are hoarding fuel and others claim that the shipments have not come. The oil companies have to give a clear picture about what is happening,” said Kishore Chandran, who works in a private bank.

Officials of the Metropolitan Transport Corporation Limited claimed they still had stocks that could last for two-and-half days for their buses. “We stock diesel for two days. On an average, we consume 230 kilolitres per day,” said an official.

Tamil Nadu Petroleum Dealers Association President M. Kannan said that some petrol bunks in the city had started receiving supplies. “There are around 300 outlets in the city and some of them have started getting supplies. The situation is expected to improve in a couple of days,” he said.

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