BEIRUT (AP) -- A brawl at a gas station in northern Lebanon over scarce fuel supplies descended into deadly violence on Monday, turning into a fight with knives and guns that killed one man, the country's news agency said.
Lebanon has faced months of severe fuel shortages that have prompted long lines at gas stations and plunged the small country, dependent on private generators for power, into long hours of darkness.
The shortages are blamed on smuggling, hoarding and the cash-strapped government's inability to secure deliveries of imported fuel. The crisis worsened when the government reduced subsidies on fuel amid a deepening financial crisis unfolding since 2019.
The Lebanese currency has plummeted and now sells at 20,000 Lebanese pounds to the dollar on the black market while the official rate is fixed at 1,500 pounds for $1. The price of a gallon of fuel has increased by more than 220% in the last year, triggering panic and a thriving black market.
The fuel crisis has turned violent before, with motorists clashing at gas stations after long waits and fuel running out. But Monday's brawl is a rare incident of tensions turning deadly.
The National News Agency said it started with a fistfight at a gas station in Bakhoun, a village in the northern Dinniyeh region. A man was shot in the melee; he was taken to a hospital in the nearby town of Zgharta where he died of his wounds, the agency said. The shooter handed himself in to authorities.
"The situation is very hard, and we can't handle it much longer," said Fadi Abu Shakra, a spokesman for fuel distributors told Al-Jadeed TV, a local station.
Lebanon's national electricity company, dependent on imported fuel, has expanded a rolling blackout system, delivering only around one hour of electricity a day to homes and businesses.
This prompted private generator operators to turn off their engines to ration the consumption of fuel, plunging entire areas into hours-long darkness. Hospitals have warned that they have been unable to secure diesel, threatening the already struggling health sector with shutdowns of medical facilities.