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Colonial Pipeline shutdown forces Florida Gov Ron DeSantis to declare state of emergency as he tells Biden to 'step up'

THE Colonial Pipeline shutdown has forced Florida to declare a state of emergency as Gov. Ron DeSantis urges Biden to "step up" and deal with the Russian hackers who caused the chaos.

Hacking group DarkSide compromised the 5,500-mile pipeline with a ransomware attack on Friday, causing panic to erupt in 18 states as fuel supplies dwindle and prices surge.

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The days-long shut down of the vital conduit has left more than 1,000 gas stations across several states – including Florida – without any fuel.

DeSantis’ declaration activates the Florida National Guard and directs state emergency management officials to work with federal and local officials. 

Announcing the measure in Jacksonville on Tuesday evening, DeSantis seized the opportunity to criticize the Biden administration's response to the hack.

"I think this is something that demands really serious federal attention. This was essentially a cyberattack on critical infrastructure in our country," he said.

"You can't just say it's a private pipeline therefore, we're not going to be involved. No, the U.S. government needs to be involved. They need to help mitigate this."

DeSantis, a staunch Trump ally, said he "fears" that gas shortages will cause a lot of "problems" for Americans and for the US economy.

Governors of Virginia, Georgia and North Carolina have all also issued states of emergency in relation to the hack.

The Biden administration, meanwhile, has sought to assure the country that it's taking active steps to address the unfolding fuel crisis.

So far, the White House has announced relaxations on trucking regulations to help resupply dry stations and is considering suspending rules that mandate American ships be used for transfers between US ports.

"There is a lot that is involved in getting a pipeline up and running," Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Wednesday.

"We're not wasting any time, and haven't been since even over the weekend, in taking the steps that are needed to mitigate any shortages."

Buttigieg also cautioned against panic buying gas, before bizarrely warning motorists that "Under no circumstances should gasoline ever be put into a plastic bag."

The fuel crisis entered its sixth day on Wednesday, with shortages spreading to the Florida panhandle, as well as Washington DC and Baltimore.

A staggering 73 percent of gas stations in Pensacola, Florida are reportedly completely out of fuel.

Meanwhile, in DC, around eight percent of stations have run completely dry.

North Carolina has so far been the worst hit by the crisis, with 65 percent of stations state-wide currently without gas.

Videos posted to social media showed fights breaking out at the pumps in some places as anxious residents sought to stockpile their supplies.

The impact of the crisis is also being felt across the entire country, with the average national gas price exceeding $3 per gallon for the first time in seven years.

The Colonial Pipeline, which supplies 45 percent of the East Coast's fuel, was completely shut down after the DarkSide ransomware hack on Friday.

It's unclear if Colonial has paid or is negotiating a ransom fee, however, the company doesn't expect to fully restore service until at least the weekend.

The pipeline's private operator manually opened portions of the line to release needed supplies in Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey and the Carolinas as a stop-gap measure.

The dwindling supplies have also impacted the airline industry, which was gearing up for a surge in demand ahead of the Memorial Weekend after a year of COVID-19 restrictions.

American Airlines said it has been forced to adjust two long-haul flight routes out of Charlotte, North Carolina, to add fuel stops.

Flights to Hawaii will for the meantime call in at Dallas-Forth Worth airport, while London-bound flights will make a stop in Boston.

Airlines flying out of Philadelphia International Airport, in Pennsylvania, are said to be burning through jet reserves and the airport only has enough supply to last "a couple of weeks".

The AAA expects more than 37 million people to travel at least 50 miles from home during the Memorial Day weekend.

That marks a 60 percent increase on last year, which was the lowest number since AAA records began.

DarkSide was officially identified as the perpetrators behind the attack by the FBI on Monday.

The group, which is made up of a cohort of veteran hackers, later released a statement saying they didn't mean to cause chaos with the attack and were only seeking to make money.

"Our goal is to make money and not creating problems for society," the statement read.

"From today, we introduce moderation and check each company that our partners want to encrypt to avoid social consequences in the future."

The group also appeared to push back against accusations it was working at the behest of the Russian government.

"We are apolitical, we do not participate in geopolitics, do not need to tie us with a defined government and look for our motives," the group insisted.

Biden also said the US intelligence hasn't found any evidence to suggest the Kremlin orchestrated the attack.

He did, however, say that Putin has "some responsibility" to help the US with the hack and prosecute those involved. The pair will be speaking about the matter soon, he said.

Russia on Tuesday attributed the attack at least partially to America's refusal to cooperate with Moscow on matters of shared security concern, including potential cyberattacks while denying direct involvement.

"We can still only regret that the United States refuses any cooperation with us in countering cyber threats. We believe that such cooperation is both international and bilateral," Peskov told reporters.

"[It] could really help in the common fight against this evil, with cybercrimes."

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