MISRATA, Libya, July 25 (Reuters) - Rebel-held Misrata was running short of fuel on Monday as a fire raged at a storage depot hit by a rocket from Libyan government forces.
More than a day after the strike late on Sunday, thick plumes of black smoke still rose into the sky and choked much of the city, sparking panic-buying by civilians and risking shortages for the rebel forces holding the cut-off town.
Most petrol stations closed, leaving drivers facing lengthy queues in the summer heat at the few that stayed open, with priority given to vehicles used by rebels on the frontline and by the emergency services.
“Patience is good, thank God,” said motorist Ismail Mohammed. “We have long queues for petrol now but most people haven’t said anything.”
Libya’s third-largest city, home to around half a million people, has been cut off by land for months from other rebel-held areas further east but has been able to get crucial supplies, including food and fuel, by boat.
Forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi are still within rocket range — some 30-40 km (20-25 miles) — of the Mediterranean port and fire at it regularly, but most of the weapons do little damage.
Other fuel depots were still intact, officials said, but could not be accessed while the fire blazed as they were too close by.
“The petrol supply in recent days was perfect. The regime of this tyrant bombed the oil facility and this caused panic and led to large queues of people wanting to refuel,” said driver, Sufayis bin Ismail, after a three-hour wait to reach the pump.
The capital Tripoli, 200 km (130 miles) to the west, and other government-held areas are having more severe and longer-term fuel problems.
Much of Libya’s oil is in the rebel-held east and the Western military alliance NATO is helping enforce an imports embargo on pro-Gaddafi areas. (Editing by Richard Meares and)