SALES of petrol and diesel have increased dramatically as motorists flocked to garages to fill up following controversial advice from the government ahead of a possible strike by fuel tanker drivers.

A Greenhithe petrol station temporarily closed this afternoon after drivers rushed to the pumps.

Asda petrol station, in Crossways Boulevard, has since reopened after receiving a delivery of fuel.

An Asda spokeswoman said: "Clearly customers have been filling their tanks and because we're the cheapest in town, we're their first choice.

"We're working flat out behind the scenes to keep petrol in stock. We apologise to our customers in Kent if they find some pumps are running low.

"We'd encourage customers to heed the advice of the AA. There are no strike dates planned and there'd be seven days notice should there be any industrial action - so there's no need for customers to change their petrol buying routines."

Petrol sales have shot up by 81 per cent and diesel by 43 per cent, according to the Petrol Retailers Association, which represents around 5,500 garages across the UK.

A spokesman blamed advice from the government on keeping tanks topped up, including the much-criticised call by Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude to fill up jerry cans.

The AA said current fuel shortages were the result of poor advice and rumours leading to panic buying.

AA president Edmund King said: "There is no fuel tanker strike and therefore if drivers followed normal fuel buying patterns there would be no fuel shortage whatsoever.

"We now have self-inflicted shortages due to poor advice about topping up the tank and hoarding in jerry cans.

"This in turn has led to localised shortages, queues and some profiteering at the pumps."