The US petrol crisis has taken a dangerous turn with a number of cars with hoarded stashes of fuel on board bursting into flames.
Jessica Patterson, a 28-year-old resident of Pickens County in the US state of South Carolina, was behind the wheel of a Pontiac G6, which was reported stolen, on Friday (local time), police said.
But when police tried to pull her over, Patterson allegedly attempted to avoid officers and flipped the Pontiac.
“The vehicle immediately caught fire and multiple explosions were heard inside the vehicle,” police said.
Patterson stepped out of the car and was also on fire. A police officer pushed her to the ground in an effort to put the fire out.
“Before leaving the scene, Ms Patterson told deputies that she was transporting several containers of fuel that she was hoarding in the trunk of the vehicle,” police said.
“These containers of fuel were the catalyst of the explosions.”
Many people are hoarding fuel in the US after the Colonial Pipeline, which runs from Texas to New Jersey and carries about 45 per cent of fuel that is consumed on the east coast, was victim of a cyberattack that has been linked to criminal gang Darkside earlier this week.
A state of emergency has been issued in the states of North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia.
In Citrus County, Florida, on Wednesday, a Hummer driven by a petrol hoarder also became engulfed in flames.
Four 18-litre containers were in the back of the car.
US 'over' the petrol outage 'hump'
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the nation was “over the hump” on gas shortages following a ransomware cyberattack that forced a shutdown of the nation’s largest gasoline pipeline.
Problems peaked on Thursday night and service should return to normal in most areas by the end of the weekend, Ms Granholm said Friday in an interview with The Associated Press.
"The good news is that... gas station outages are down about 12 per cent from the peak" as of Friday afternoon, with about 200 stations returning to service every hour, she said.
"It's still going to work its way through the system over the next few days, but we should be back to normal fairly soon."
President Joe Biden said US officials did not believe the Russian government was involved, but said “we do have strong reason to believe that the criminals who did the attack are living in Russia".
As Colonial reported making "substantial progress" on Friday in restoring full service, two people briefed on the matter confirmed the company had paid a ransom of about US$5 million (A$6.4 million).
Ms Granholm, like other Biden administration officials, urged drivers not to panic or hoard gasoline.
"Really, the gasoline is coming," she said.
"If you take more than what you need, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in terms of the shortages. Let's share a little bit with our neighbours and everybody should know that it's going to be okay in the next few days."
with The Associated Press
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