France fuel strikes: Driven to despair?

Cars at a motorway station in between St Paul de Vence and Cagnes-sur-Mer. Image copyright Mohamed Raffa

As strikes hit oil refineries in France, around 20% of petrol stations have almost run dry, causing disruption for residents and visitors alike.

We've been talking to some people affected by the fuel shortages.

Sylvia Prebois, a teacher from Niort in the Deux Sevres region of France, went to her local petrol station in the morning but there was no fuel left:

Image copyright Sylvia Prebois
Image caption Sylvia Prebois says it's quite distressing

"Later I managed to find some at another station where there were signs saying, 'Filling up extra petrol in cans not allowed.' Gardening companies are getting very frustrated as it's a busy season for them. One gardener in his van behind me complained: 'How are we supposed to work if we can't fill up our cans?'

Truly the petrol strike is gradually taking a toll over our daily lives. It's quite distressing. I guess that's just the beginning. We're starting to feel the same kind of insecurity as in Paris."

Stefan Brooks, from the US, is visiting his aunt in Melun, a south-eastern suburb of Paris.

"I had planned a trip to Lyon, Avignon, and Arles, but I cancelled my trip, including the rental car and hotels, owing to the fuel shortages. I come over here about four times a year. I've now booked a trip to Budapest instead. I'll be flying. I'm fighting with the hotel in Lyon to get my money back. It's frustrating because it's not my fault.

At my aunt's, we've been filling up with fuel every day. She needs the car and is pretty disgusted by what's happening. Strikes keep happening. When I visited last year the baggage handlers were on strike."

Image copyright Ian Patton
Image caption Ian Patton and William Flaherty hope they will be able to reach their planned Euro matches

Ian Patton, from Antrim, says he is concerned the strike will ruin his trip to France to see the European Championships.

"I'm flying to London on 9 June and picking up a car there. From there we'll go to Calais and drive down to spend four days in Lyon to watch the Northern Ireland game against Ukraine.

I hadn't thought about this strike until I saw the news today. I've got tickets for all three qualifying games. We will be really stuck if it isn't sorted out because our 14-day trip involves a lot of driving."

Image copyright Robert Adcock
Image caption Only five or six cars per pump at La Mothe-Achard, Vendee

Robert Adcock lives in La Mothe-Achard, Vendee, France, and is concerned about how the strikes will affect flights.

"On Friday there were no reports at all about any blockades but there were queues at the petrol pumps right down the road. Each one had a 45-minute-to-an-hour wait. When I went out today there were five or six cars at each pump. It didn't look that bad.

We have three cars, all full, so are more concerned about how this will affect airports. My wife works in London and is coming back on Thursday. It's about 45 miles to Nantes airport from here. She's got a couple of trips left in her car. The nearest city to us is Nantes.

A lot of boats are coming over from New York. That will increase the population. Let's see what an effect fuel shortages will have then."

Nick Baker from Kent, UK, is in Nimes, having travelled down the west coast from Normandy last week:

"The first I knew of the strike and disruption was on Monday when I tried to fill up and faced queues out on the main road of about 30 cars. There were a lot of short tempers.

When I finally got to the pumps there was no diesel, so I carried on towards Nimes and tried every service station I passed on the way with the same result. I tried 15 or so stations last night, with no joy. I have little fuel in my car so will extend my stay at the hotel if I can. I could sleep in the car if the worst came to the worst.

For the moment I'm not worried. The sun is shining and the hotel has a pool. Life is good."

Mohamed Raffa is a dispute resolution lawyer who lives in Villeneuve-Loubet:

"The French are quite patient and respectable to others waiting in the queue, so far. It remains to be seen if it gets worse. My office is in Cannes, 20km (12 miles) away, so if things get worse I may need to commute by train. I cannot imagine how many cars will be parking at the station as it's very small.

Marc Helouin is an American expat living in Lille, northern France:

"The past couple of days have been out of the norm and a bit disruptive. Petrol stations on and near the motorway between Lille and Dunkirk seem to be all shut and have been since Sunday. Some people (myself included) are heading up to Belgium for gas.

It's not ideal, but it is a solution if you live near the border and have enough gas in the tank to get there in the first place. It will be interesting to see how the unions and the government bring this to a resolution. At the minute it's mostly just annoying, but an extended period of time could see more significant social impacts.

Compiled by Sherie Ryder.