Beirut: Lebanon’s army confiscated fuel from gas stations on Saturday to reduce storage amid severe shortages as the head of the central bank decided to stop fuel subsidies.
A number of protesters blocked main roads in Lebanon, in protest against the loss of fuel and the poor living conditions.
Lebanon has been witnessing a shortage of fuel, medicine, and other basic commodities for months due to the lack of foreign exchange that the central bank used to secure in order to support the import of these materials.
Several Lebanese towns witnessed massive popular protests denouncing the central bank’s decision to lift fuel subsidies.
Dozens of protesters blocked the highway in the village of Chekka, near a gas station, to protest its closure and not allowing car tanks to be filled.
The Lebanese army on Saturday took to Twitter and wrote, “Raiding closed gas stations to seize gasoline and distribute it “free of charge” to the people.”
Soldiers were deployed at several petrol stations north of Beirut, where hundreds of vehicles were queuing for hours to fill up.
A statement said the army confiscated more than 78,000 liters of gasoline stored at two gas stations and 57,000 liters of diesel fuel from a third.
The internal security forces also told the media that they seized thousands of liters of gasoline and diesel stored in one of the gas pumps.
On August 11, the central bank president Riad Salameh said that it would halt government subsidies for fuel imports, sparking panic across the country.
In an interview broadcast on Saturday, Salameh said fuel subsidies have drained the country’s foreign exchange reserves. “About $800 million was spent last month on imports. The figure should have been enough for three months,” Salameh said.
Severe fuel shortages and power outages lasting more than 22 hours a day have left many businesses and homes without the diesel fuel needed to run private generators, plunging the country into darkness.