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Bus drivers in Dhamar on strike.

DHAMAR, July 16--Private minibus drivers in Dhamar governorate on Monday began an indefinite strike in protest against fuel shortages in the governorate.

The drivers claim that the state-owned Yemen Petroleum Company (YPC) branch in Dhamar has effectively encouraged the selling of fuel on the black market by closing one of its two petrol stations in Dhamar city while providing diesel to private gas stations. They allege that the private gas stations distribute only a portion of their fuel stocks on the open market while selling the rest on the black market at inflated prices.

Streets were largely devoid of public transport on Monday because of the strike, which was called for by the minibus drivers' union.

Clashes between security forces and protesting drivers broke out after the drivers attempted to block major roads. Police fired warning shots to disperse protesters.

Some protesters broke the windows of minibuses belonging to those breaking in the strike but no injuries were reported.

Mohammed Ali Al-Haddad, head of the minibus drivers' union in Dhamar, told the Yemen Times that: "we went on strike after the director of the YPC's branch in Dhamar refused to regulate the process of providing diesel and closed the gas stations of the company."

Minibus drivers have had to endure long queues at YPC gas stations, from which they receive 40 liters of fuel rations at a time. They claim that fuel woes have worsened since the YPC closed its station while continuing to supply private outlets.

"The new director was appointed only about a month ago but he closed the gas station of the YPC and gave its share of diesel to private gas stations that sell diesel on the black market," added Al-Haddad.

"These gas stations provide half of what they have to consumers and then shut down and sell the rest on the black market for double the price," he added.

Al-Haddad said that the drivers also organized a protest in front of the Dhamar governor's house but the security apparatus dispersed them.

"There are more than 1,700 buses in Dhamar that provide income for about 3,000 families. The suffering of bus drivers gets worse day by day," he added.

A source at the YPC's branch in Dhamar, who spoke to the Yemen Times on condition of anonymity, said that the governorate has witnessed severe fuel shortages because of the high demand for diesel, particularly with the beginning of the growing season when farmers of the breadbasket region rely heavily on diesel-operated water pumps.

The source added that the YPC's gas station in Dhamar was closed to reduce congestion on the Sana'a-Sa'ada main road in front of the station.

Ali Abdulla Thabit, a minibus driver, said: "the private gas stations assigned to provide diesel to bus drivers sell diesel on the black market while bus drivers wait in front of these stations in vain."

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Publication:Yemen Times (Sana'a, Yemen)
Date:Jul 17, 2014
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