France’s strikes are spreading chaos as fuel supplies run dry and airlines are told to reduce the number of flights in and out of the country by up to 50 per cent tomorrow.

Crisis is now looming in France as labour unions calls for national stoppages.

Strikes have been triggered by proposed reforms to the retirement system which would increase the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62. The reforms have been drawn up by President Nicolas Sarkozy and already approved by the lower National Assembly.

Airlines told to reduce flights in and out of France

The civil aviation authority said France was asking airline operators to reduce flights into Orly airport outside Paris by 50 percent and by 30 percent at all other airports.

Today, flights scheduled to leave from Paris airports were delayed or cancelled after a surprise strike by aircraft refuelers.

Planes have also been forced to take off with insufficient fuel, needing to refuel en route.

France’s gas stations run out of fuel

At least 1,000 gas stations across France have run out of fuel, said Alexandre de Benoist, a Union of Independent Oil Importers official.

Service stations have run out of fuel because of strikes by workers at France’s 12 refineries and blockades at some of the country’s 200 fuel depots.

The government said only two percent of the country’s 13,200 service stations had actually run dry, but a spokeswoman for Exxon Mobil told Reuters: “The situation is critical.”

Today, motorists queued to fill their cars, fearful that fuel is about to run dry.

Strikes enter critical phase

Today’s announcements come as high school students clashed with police and protesters blocked two main highways.

Neither the government nor the labour unions are prepared to back down meaning that chaos caused by the strikes may continue.

However, despite the disruption, a survey by a French newspaper, Le Parisien, on Monday showed that 52 per cent of the public are supporting the strikes with an additional 19 percent expressing sympathy for the strikers.