The jerry can u-turn: Now government says DON'T queue for fuel as mother who set fire to herself while decanting petrol remains critical in hospital
- Panic buying continues after week of panicked messages from ministers
- RAC and AA step in to offer rational advice to motorists
- Department for Energy and Climate Change: 'No need to queue - No urgency to top up'
- Woman suffers 40 per cent burns after using jerry cans to transfer petrol in her kitchen
- Union bosses rule out strike action over Easter
By EDDIE WRENN
After one serious injury and thousands of hours spent by panicked drivers trying to squeeze every last drop out of the pumps, the Government has finally decided there is no need for us to queue for fuel.
Following a week of mixed messages that sparked panic buying across the nation, the Department for Energy and Climate Change is now trying to reassure motorists with an authoritative statement that a strike 'will not happen over Easter'.
The department said this morning: There is no need to queue at petrol forecourts. There is no urgency to top up your tank - a strike will not happen over Easter.'
Meanwhile mother-of-two Diane Hill, who suffered 40 per cent burns, remains critically ill in hospital after she tried to pour petrol into a jug in her kitchen while trying to refill her daughter's car.
Chaos: Prompted by ministers to fill their tanks, motorists besieged garages and lengthy queues formed around the country yesterday. Community Support Officers manage the traffic queuing outside a Total service station in Christchurch, Dorset
Hazard: Queues like this one on a main road in Christchurch, Dorset, led to police ordering the closure of the county's garages for safety reasons
Chaos: Cars pile into a Morrisons filling station in Northampton today as the RAC warned drivers again not to panic buy fuel
The Department for Energy and Climate Change latest message is a change of tone from a series of bumbling messages from the Government over the last week.
Cabinet Officer Minister France Maude sparked the crisis by urging motorists to stockpile fuel in jerry cans, with even David Cameron suggesting regular top-ups and other ministers weighing in with various advice such as keeping tanks two-thirds full.
The alarmist messages led to queues of motorists jamming up garage forecourts, and eventually thousands of garages running empty due to the demand, sparking even panic among drivers.
There are now calls for Maude, to quit after sparking such widespread panic.
The Fire Brigades Union denounced his advice as dangerous and transport minister Mike Penning, a former fireman, said Mr Maude had made a ‘mistake’.
The mother of two was pouring petrol from a jerry can to a glass jug - but the gas cooker was on at the time in her home in York and the petrol vapours ignited.
The flames engulfed her clothes and she was rushed to hospital.
But the fire service said her family of four run four cars and one of the daughters needed petrol because she had run out.
Mrs Hill’s daughter Grace had tweeted shortly before the accident on Thursday: ‘I’m gonna be ****** if petrol stations in York close down cos I’ve zero money to top up now.’
Mrs Hill was at the family home in Acomb, York, at 6pm on Thursday when the accident happened. She began pouring petrol from a five-litre plastic jerry can into a jug to transfer into her daughter’s car outside when the vapours ignited.
Mrs Hill poses for a picture. She set herself alight after pouring petrol while cooking the evening meal on a gas stove in the kitchen
Hospitalised: Mrs Hill's two daughters, Lauren (centre-left) and Grace (centre-right), tried to put the flames out. Also pictured is husband Mark
Mrs Hill spilled more petrol by dropping the containers and was engulfed by further flames as a result. A neighbour told how daughters Lauren, 23, and Grace, 18, bravely tried to smother the flames when their mother ran into the garden, ripping off her burning clothes. Her husband Mark arrived on the scene minutes.
Next door neighbour Margot Johnston, 86, said: ‘It was a horrible image. The girls were very upset.’ Speaking to the Daily Record, she added: 'The first thing I saw was billowing smoke and thought the daughters were having a BBQ and I thought: "How lovely".
'Then I realised somebody was alight. She was trying to pull her burning clothes off and the girls were helping her. It was so upsetting seeing how distraught they were.
'“Her face was saved, thank god, but her body was badly burned.'
Last night Mrs Hill was at the Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield, where she was in a ‘critical but stable’ condition.
Mrs Hill’s aunt Joan Simpson said: ‘This whole situation has been handled really badly by the Government and this tragic event could have been avoided. We are all absolutely devastated.’
Horror: Diane Hill set herself on fire while using a jerry can to fill up a jug
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: 'We do not know the details of this tragic incident which will be of concern to everyone in the fire service. Any firefighter hearing what happened will be deeply concerned for the woman involved and her family.
'What this incident shows are the dangers of handling petrol, especially in the home. Petrol is highly flammable, highly explosive, easily ignited and toxic and that message needs to be sent out loud and clear.
'The public do not understand the extreme dangers posed by petrol handling or storage and they must be advised as a matter of urgency. It is particularly critical at this time when we are entering a period when kids are off school.
'Government needs to issue urgent professionally-based advice to warn the public before we have another incident, perhaps with far worse consequences. It is important we're taking every step to ensure there are no other incidents of this kind.'
Lee Smith, manager of Acomb fire station, attended the scene. He confirmed that the container Ms Hill was decanting from was a green jerry can.
He said: 'It was a normal tea-time activity, cooking a meal, and the person (Ms Hill) was decanting from a petrol container into a glass jug.
'The vapour from the petrol was then ignited in the kitchen area. This resulted in spillage of the petrol and further flames which engulfed the person.
'We did locate a jerry can - the type of product you might buy at any petrol station to store petrol. There was a small amount of burning in the kitchen as well.
'We'd like to stress that people consider whether they really need petrol in their house, considering what's topical at the moment.
'People fill at forecourts in a very safe and controlled area and once you move away from this, people might not be familiar with the potential that the vapour has of being ignited very, very easily.'
The RAC has stepped in to try to reduce the 'irresponsible' messages.
A spokesman said that drivers filling up their tanks now in preparation for the Easter holidays were misguided because the earliest the strike could begin would be on April 11.
Fire: The semi-detached house in York where a middle-aged woman set herself alight after decanting petrol in her kitchen during the fuel crisis
He said: 'There's no need for anybody to keep filling up their tanks in this ridiculous manner.
'There's a real risk that if the panic buying continues people won't be able to get away for the Easter break.
'The earliest that the strike could be happening would be in the second week of April so there's no need for anybody to be buying extra fuel for the holidays. They need to stop this nonsense.'
'Jerry cans': Francis Maude faces calls to quit after sparking widespread panic
The AA also said the ‘unnecessary and self-inflicted’ shortages were due to poor advice. It urged motorists to ignore suggestions to fill up their tanks.
The Unite union yesterday ruled out strike action by tanker drivers over Easter in order to focus on talks.
Unite, which represents around 2,000 tanker drivers, said it retained the right to call industrial action if talks, expected to start next week, break down.
The union said it had been trying for more than a year to establish minimum standards in the fuel oil distribution industry and halt a 'race to the bottom'.
An Acas spokesman said: 'We are pleased that Unite have confirmed they are ready to start substantive talks as soon as possible. We are meeting all of the employers involved in the dispute on Monday to complete our exploratory talks with them.
'We hope that more formal talks involving both Unite and the employers will start as soon as possible after Monday.'
Speaking at 10 Downing Street shortly after he chaired a meeting of the Government's Cobra emergency contingencies committee, Mr Cameron welcomed the decision by the Unite union not to call strikes of petrol tanker drivers before Easter.
He called on the union to engage constructively in talks at conciliation service Acas on Monday and urged it to withdraw the threat of strike action.
The Prime Minister said: 'It is now clear there will not be a strike before Easter, and I'm sure the whole country will welcome that news.
'It is vitally important the trade union in question enters these talks on Monday constructively. The most constructive thing they could do would be to call off the strike entirely.
THE MIXED MESSAGES FROM NO10
As the Government continued to train soldiers to take over the job of driving tankers to stations, the head of a petrol group warned of the 'three-day' backlog in getting supplies out.
Brian Maddison, chairman of the Retail Motor Industry (RMI) Petrol, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that panic-buying had caused a backlog among hauliers.
Asked how soon extra supplies could be delivered, he replied: 'It's not going to be very easy at all. I think we're probably heading towards some difficulty this weekend just because the backlog is starting to approach two to three days.'
Some garages had pushed prices well above even the record averages set yesterday of 140.9p per litre for unleaded and 147.1p for diesel.
In places as far apart as Gateshead in the North East and Chorleywood in Hertfordshire, motorists were having to pay an extra 3p to 4p overnight.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2123151/Petrol-strike-Government-says-need-panic-buy-Easter-holiday.html#ixzz1qhXbfkR7