Hanoians swarm gas stations in midnight rush

By Quynh Nguyen   November 11, 2022 | 07:08 am PT
Hanoians swarm gas stations in midnight rush
Long queues form at a fuel station on Xuan Thuy Street, Hanoi's Cau Giay District, at midnight on November 10, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Nguyen
Seeing hundreds queuing up at a gas station on Hanoi's Tam Trinh Street, Hong Hanh decided to find another outlet though it was past midnight.

Hanh's next stop was a station on Lac Trung Street in Hai Ba Trung District, where just two pumps were still operating. Several people there complained that they’d been waiting for an hour but could not fill their tanks.

So Hanh went to yet another gas station on Vo Thi Sau Street in Hai Ba Trung District, but it was temporarily closed.

"I was afraid I would have to push my motorbike home in the middle of the night...," Hanh, 27, said.

She said she went to the gas station at midnight thinking it would be less busy then, but found the opposite to be true.

Finally, she arrived at a gas station on Tran Quang Khai Street in Hoan Kiem District at 1 a.m., where all four pumps were operational. The queue was long, but she only had to wait 5-10 minutes for her turn and no limit was imposed on how much she could buy.

Citizens cross the country have faced fuel shortages in recent weeks, with hundreds of stations in major cities shutting down or limiting sales due to financial difficulties and tight supplies.

Nguyen Binh, a 30-year-old motorbike taxi driver, was waiting in line for gas at Xuan Thuy Street in Cau Giay District at midnight. He had tried five different gas stations in both Ha Dong and Cau Giay districts, but they were all packed.

Over the past few days, Binh has been buying gasoline late at night and early morning, hoping it would help him avoid having to wait in line for too long at normal times. But others seem to have had the same thought, since the queue is just as long at 3 a.m. as it is at any other time of day.

"In the past, gas stations were often empty after 11 p.m. and it only took me a few minutes to fill up the tank. Now I have to wait at least 15 minutes for my turn.

"So I thought that if I have to wait in line, I might as well do it at night when the temperature is more bearable and it won't disrupt my job," he said.

VnExpress found that between Thursday night and Friday morning, people flocked to gas stations owned by Vietnam National Petroleum Group (Petrolimex), the country's largest fuel distributor, in many Hanoi districts.

The majority of gas stations only have two pumps – one for motorcycles and the other for cars and bigger vehicles. The long wait times of recent days have frustrated many residents.

Even after the rush at gas stations reduced after midnight, the average wait time was between five and ten minutes.

According to a November 8 Petrolimex notice, the company's 96 retail locations would remain open 24 hours a day until November 13 to serve consumers in Hanoi, where the midnight rush for gasoline has intensified in recent days.

A fuel retailer on Tran Quang Khai Street said the number of people coming in for gasoline has picked up significantly in the past two weeks.

"There was a time when we didn't see many customers after midnight, but now we have to keep working without break until early mornings."

Ho Quoc Thong, faculty at the HCMC University of Economics, told VnExpress earlier this month that the long lines at gas stations and the restrictions on consumer purchases were having a negative psychological impact on the public. The long queuing time will adversely impact many people's ability to make a living and undermine their quality of life, he said.

The experience of Cau Giay resident Lam Dung bears Thong’s assessment out.

Dung went to a gas station near his house on Nguyen Phong Sac Street around 10 p.m., expecting it to be empty, but instead saw two lines of motorbikes up to 50 meters long spilling onto the street.

"I had to return home empty-handed," the 40-year-old said.

Though the number of people waiting had diminished when he returned to the station at 11:30 p.m., there were dozens of motorbikes still waiting in the queue.

"I would have to wait for an hour for my turn. That's terrible," Dung said.

He went to three or four different gas stations near his residence, but they were either crowded or temporarily closed.

Tired of waiting, Dung said he would return at 5 a.m.

"I can only hope it would be less crowded at that time. If it remains packed, I will have to take motorbike taxi to work."

Thanh Tam, a resident of Cau Giay District, has looked to avoid crowds and long waiting periods by filling up her motorbike between midnight and early morning at gas stations that open 24/7. However, there seemed to be a wait of at least 15 minutes at every station she visited.

"The gas stations appear to be crowded at all hours, day or night. I'm hoping that these long waits for gasoline will end soon, " the 29-year-old woman said.

Hong Hanh, meanwhile said that if the long waits for gasoline continued, she would consider purchasing an electric motorbike.

"An electric motorbike can be charged at home. So it would be more convenient to move around and would help me save much more time."

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