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Mass refueling begins to ease US fuel shortage after cyberattack

By Jennifer Hiller and Stephanie Kelly

(Reuters) – Widespread gasoline shortages on the East Coast of the United States began to ease slightly on Saturday after the country’s largest fuel pipeline stepped up operations following last week’s cyberattack, and ships and boats were deployed. trucks to fill empty storage tanks.

The six-day closure of the Colonial Pipeline was the most disruptive cyberattack ever recorded, sparking widespread panic purchases and draining gas stations across the southeast of the country.

More than 13,400 gas stations surveyed in the east and south by the GasBuddy app were experiencing outages on Saturday, up from 16,200 on Friday.

As of noon Saturday, about 80% of gas stations in Washington, DC, were still out of fuel, up from 88% the day before, according to GasBuddy. The shortage also decreased in North Carolina and Virginia, while it remained roughly the same in Georgia.

Meanwhile, demand for gasoline in the United States fell 12.6% from the previous week, a decline likely due to a decline in “crazed” panic buying just after the pipeline shutdown, said Patrick De Haan from GasBuddy.

The national average for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was $ 3.04 on Saturday, up from $ 2.96 a week ago, according to AAA.

The pipeline accelerated a gasoline price hike that “was already rising on higher oil prices and demand before Remembrance Day,” said Ellen Edmonds, a spokeswoman for AAA.

Places supplied by the pipeline saw the biggest price increases this week – 9 cents in DC and 21 in North Carolina – but prices should decline as supply improves, he said.

The Colonial Pipeline began to resume business on Wednesday and said it is approaching its normal rates.

Ships deployed under emergency exemptions also carried fuel from refineries on the Gulf of Mexico coast to the northeast, while 18-wheelers transported gasoline from Alabama to Virginia, helping to ease the shortage.

(Reporting by Stephanie Kelly in New York, Jennifer Hiller in Houston, Rich McKay in Atlanta, and Timothy Gardner in Bethesda, Maryland; additional reporting by Laura Sanicola, Joe Menn, and Liz Hampton; edited in Spanish by Carlos Serrano)

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