Briton suffers burns in petrol panic

2012-03-30 16:00
London - Britain's fuel panic claimed its first casualty on Friday after a woman suffered serious burns when petrol she had stored in her home under government advice ahead of a possible strike ignited.

Prime Minister David Cameron's government has felt the heat for its handling of a threat by fuel tanker drivers to take industrial action, with motorists forming huge queues at petrol stations to fill up their tanks.

Firefighters said the woman involved in the fuel incident in the northern city of York suffered 40% burns to her body.

"While decanting petrol from one container to another the petrol ignited and set fire to her clothing," North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said in a statement, adding that fire-fighters had to put out a blaze in her kitchen.

The woman was using the cooker at the time, said fire service spokesman Peter Hudson.

The blaze came two days after senior cabinet officer Francis Maude suggested that motorists take the "sensible precaution" of filling up jerrycans and keeping them in the garage.

The government later retracted the advice after firefighters denounced it as dangerous, and motoring organisations said it would trigger panic buying.

The crisis eased slightly on Friday when Unite, the union representing the tanker drivers, ruled out the threat of strikes over the Easter weekend from April 6-9, when millions of British holidaymakers usually hit the road.

Fuel panic

Unite said it would concentrate on talks over pay and conditions.

Fuel retailers said petrol sales increased by more than 170& and diesel sales were up by almost 80% on Thursday as drivers rushed to fill their cars.

In addition to Maude's jerrycan advice, the government has made a series of U-turns in its advice to the British public.

Ministers at first advised drivers to fill their tanks where they could, while Cameron said there was no need, and then transport minister Ed Davey said on Thursday that motorists should have their tanks "two-thirds full".

The opposition Labour party accused Cameron of stoking the fuel panic to distract attention from a row over sales tax rises and a scandal over donations to the premier's Conservative party.

"I think it's backfired because I think people have generally seen that these are schoolboy political games being played by people who should be doing responsible jobs," said Labour finance spokesman Ed Balls.

Read more on:    david cameron

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