It has been reported that the price of fuel could increase by up to 70 cents a litre next month, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which crippled the oilfields in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this week.

It has been reported that the price of fuel could increase by up to 70 cents a litre next month, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which crippled the oilfields in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this week.

The price of petrol will increase by 29 cents a litre next Wednesday, while the cost of diesel is likely to drop. However, following the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico, reports of operations suspended indefinitely at the damaged oil platforms sent crude oil prices surging to more than US$70 a barrel.

The US Coast Guard reported that at least seven rigs were adrift in the area, and eight refineries have been shut down as oil companies start sending crews to assess the damage.

The hurricane's impact on international energy markets could be immense. It has been cautioned that very little excess fuel is available to make up for production losses at this time of high global demand.

Colin McClelland, director of the South African Petroleum Industry Association, said: "I hope it won't happen, but unless petrol prices ease on world markets, our price in South Africa could go up by about 70 cents a litre next month, based on an under-recovery of a rumoured 90 cents."

He added that even if the international price of fuel were to drop before October, the price increase at the pumps would still be substantial.