Frustrated motorists became embroiled in pump rage incidents as petrol panic spread across Sussex yesterday.
Fuel stations reported customers shouting, swearing and beeping their horns while waiting in long queues as panic-buying left many garages dry.
Despite widespread advice not to rush to stock up, long queues formed at almost every fuel station in the county.
Angry customers began rowing outside the petrol station at Asda in Hollingbury amid accusations of queue jumping, as the lines of cars stretched from the forecourt as far as Carden Avenue.
One member of staff, trying to keep customers calm as she ushered them to the pumps, said: “It has been crazy.
“We have had people screaming, shouting and swearing.
“They’ve been getting frustrated and getting into rows.
“Everyone who’s come in here has said ‘I’ve just run out’. But we’re never normally this busy.”
Customers described disputes between queue-jumping motorists and those frustrated with the wait.
Dylan Brown, of Brighton, said: “I have seen people getting pretty angry.
“I saw one member of staff having to manhandle someone who was trying to jump the queue.
“But I have filled my tank up to the very top which I very rarely do and filled two cans as well because I’ve got a long journey to the Lake District.”
Gardener Mark Sheehan said fellow customers had been giving him “angry glares” as he filled two cans of petrol for his mowers.
Michelle Watson, of the Texaco garage in Telescombe Cliffs, said: “We closed at about 12.30pm after selling three days’ worth of fuel in a day.
“There’s no shortage, we had the same amount as normal - it’s just everyone panicking.
“People are buying too much. The average we’ve been selling has been £50 to £100 per customer but usually people just put £20 in.
“It is ridiculous and it’s the customers’ fault.”
One driver was so desperate to squeeze every last drop of fuel into their tank, the fire brigade had to be called out.
Firefighters were called to the fuel spillage to put sand on the carriageway after the car’s tank was overfilled in Deerswood Road, Crawley.
The Petrol Retailers Association said that unleaded sales had shot up 81% and diesel by 43% in the past couple of days.
There were also unconfirmed reports of garages around Sussex putting their prices up to “cash in” on the crisis.
Motoring groups said that mixed messages from the government – including Horsham MP Francis Maude’s suggestion that drivers should stock up on cans of petrol - had created pandemonium at the pumps.
AA president Edmund King said: "We now have self-inflicted shortages due to poor advice about topping up the tank and hoarding in jerry cans.
"This in turn has led to localised shortages, queues and some profiteering at the pumps.
"There is no fuel tanker strike and therefore if drivers followed normal fuel buying patterns there would be no fuel shortage whatsoever.”
As petrol panic swept across the county, East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service warned people of the risks of storing petrol.
Director of protection and prevention Andy Reynolds said: “At present there is no reason to believe that there will be any petrol shortage and our advice to members of the public is not to store any additional supplies. “However, for those people that do, please remember that petrol is classed as highly flammable and produces explosive vapour at room temperature.
“Treat it with care.”
Motorists were also warned that it is a criminal offence to store more than 30 litres of petrol and there are strict legal and safety guidelines on how it must be stored.
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