Haiti's Fuel Crisis Deepens; Banks Announce Partial Closure

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) -- Haiti's fuel crisis is deepening, with the country's Professional Association of Banks announcing Friday that a shortage of petroleum is forcing institutions to cut their hours and days as dozens of gas stations across the capital remained closed.

Starting next week, banks will operate only three days a week instead of the usual six and will close in the early afternoon.

Long lines, fights and boisterous crowds formed earlier this week around a handful of gas stations that were still operating, with a gallon of gas costing roughly $15 in some places. Motorcycle drivers, business owners and even police officers have been forced to search for fuel, with many customers waiting hours for their turn.

The shortage has hit hospitals, schools, ambulances, public transportation and others in recent weeks as anger and frustration grows.

The government has blamed gangs for blocking gas distribution terminals, with local newspaper Le Nouvelliste reporting Friday that several truck drivers have been kidnapped and at least four fuel tankers seized. At least one gang has said it would lift the blockade if Prime Minister Ariel Henry steps down.

Last week, Henry said the country was not running out of petroleum and that ships were waiting to unload fuel. He added that police had created a "security corridor" to protect gasoline shipments and truck drivers, and that airports, Coast Guard boats and some hospitals and telephone companies had received fuel. He also said officials from various government agencies were working together to find a quick solution, although he did not provide details.

However, the situation seemed to have worsened this week, with the president of Haiti's petrol stations federation warning that meetings with government officials have not yielded a solution.

"The real crisis will start in upcoming days," Marc André Dériphonse told Magik9 radio.