PARIS Hundreds of petrol stations faced shortages in France on Saturday as protests over a labour law reform led to a fall in refinery output and blockades that hampered fuel supply and prompted consumer panic.
France has been hit by a wave of strikes over the past week after President Francois Hollande's Socialist government opted to force the unpopular labour market reforms through the lower house of parliament without a vote.
Total had to shut production units at three refineries, in Donges, Feyzin and Normandy, while deliveries from its Grandpuits refineries were blocked by protesters, prompting output to run at reduced flow, French oil industry group UFIP said. The fifth one in La Mede was operating normally.
In addition, three of Total's nine oil depots were blocked by protesters.
The news of fuel shortages and blockades sent drivers rushing to petrol stations, mainly in northwestern France where the refineries are located, to fill their tanks as a precaution.
UFIP said 317 out of Total's 2,200 petrol stations in France had run out of all or some fuels on Saturday. Total runs nearly one petrol station out of five in the country.
Shell and Eni petrol stations were not facing any disruption, UFIP said.
Data for supermarkets, which sold more than 60 percent of the fuel in France last year, was not immediately available.
Several departments in the northwest imposed restrictions on limiting the volume of fuel per vehicle or banning jerry cans.
"There is no need to panic," UFIP spokeswoman said. "We have the products, refineries are working even if the flow has sometimes been reduced. The problem is to move around, there will be no shortage in the immediate future."
A prolonged strike at refineries in France in 2010 led to a glut of crude in Europe because it could not be delivered to refineries, and a spike in refined products prices due to low output from refineries.
A CGT union official said on Friday the goal of the strike was not to create shortages but to obtain the withdrawal of the labour bill.
(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide and Bate Felix; Editing by Ralph Boulton)
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Updated Date: May 21, 2016 22:15 PM