Truckers stranded in Spanish blockade

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The Independent Online
Hundreds of British lorry-drivers were yesterday stranded in Europe as striking Spanish truckers blockaded ports and motorways.

The Foreign Office and freight organisations were warning drivers to avoid northern Spain, following unconfirmed reports of Spanish protesters using catapults to smash windscreens and slashing the tyres of foreign drivers who tried to run blockades. The trouble followed an incident last night when an English lorry driver allegedly threatened strikers with a gun.

"We have warned our chaps from about 10 days ago there were going to be problems," said a spokesman for the Road Haulage Association yesterday. "The situation overall ... is deteriorating rather than getting better."

Hundreds of lorries from all over Europe yesterday lined the roads around the main border crossings into France.

A Foreign Office spokesman estimated that 80 per cent of Spain's 200,000 truckers had joined the strike, demanding cheaper fuel and better working conditions.

He added that there had been reports of attacks on cars with foreign plates.

"Our consuls are driving around trying to see if British drivers are all right - they can help those running out of money and take up grievances with the authorities," he said.

Jimmy Gillespie, a lorry-driver from Penrith, Cumbria, spent 16 hours at the border crossing from France at La Jonquera.

Speaking from Madrid yesterday he said: "I was threatened with being knifed if I didn't get out of my cab. I've seen other drivers getting their tyres slashed and windscreens put in.

"One British driver ran through a blockade, sending the Spaniards scattering from the road.

"But then the police pulled him over and he got his cab smashed up by a mob of Spaniards."

In November, dozens of Britons were blockaded by French truckers, and their Greek counterparts have since brought chaos to roads and ferries.