Fights have broken out at some forecourts as some people tried to fill up old water bottles with fuel, after pumps remain dry in the world's fifth-largest economy.

Drivers queue for fuel at a petrol station in London, on September 28, 2021.
Drivers queue for fuel at a petrol station in London, on September 28, 2021. (AP)

Lengthy queues formed outside gas stations across London again as the strain on fuel supplies continued despite UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying the situation was improving.

Britain has been gripped by a rush of panic-buying for almost a week that has left pumps dry across major cities, after oil companies warned they did not have enough truck drivers to move petrol and diesel from refineries to filling stations.

Johnson has sought to quell public concerns, saying supplies were returning to normal while also urging people not to panic buy. 

But in many regions, hundreds of forecourts remained closed and motorists were still snarled in queues waiting to fill their tanks.

Reuters reporters saw lengthy queues outside gas stations from 0600 in north London and on the busy M25 orbital motorway circling the British capital along with warnings that no fuel was available at some sites.

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Petrol station fights

The gridlock has sparked calls for doctors, nurses and other essential workers to be given priority in filling their cars to keep hospitals and social care services running, a move Johnson has resisted.

The government has put 150 British army tanker drivers on standby, and media reports suggested they could be deployed in the next few days.

Industry groups said the worst of the fuel shortages seemed to be in London, the southeast and other English cities. 

Fights have broken out at some forecourts as drivers jostled for fuel and pictures on social media showed some people filling up old water bottles with fuel.

Fuel pumps run dry

The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), which represents independent fuel retailers who account for about two-thirds of all the 8,380 UK forecourts, said on Tuesday 37% of its members' gas stations were out of fuel.

The shortages have added to an air of chaos in the world's fifth-largest economy after a dearth of truck drivers throughout the economy left gaps on supermarket shelves, while a spike in European wholesale natural gas prices has tipped energy companies into bankruptcy.

READ MORE: UK's driver shortage caused shutdowns of oil stations

According to data by the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS), the number of trucks and truck drivers, which was 301,497 in the first quarter of 2020, decreased to 232,942 as of the second quarter of 2021.

Experts in the UK state that the total number of transport drivers in the country is about 100,000 less than what is currently needed.

"What we want to do is make sure that we have all the preparations necessary to get through until Christmas and beyond, not just in supplying the petrol stations but all parts of our supply chain," Johnson said.

Source: TRT World