Amid panic buying of petrol in which a woman suffered severe 40 per cent burn injuries, and the threat of an immediate petrol strike receding, pressure mounted on Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude to quit because of his comments earlier in the week asking people to store jerry cans of fuel.

Labour MPs alleged that the unfortunate incident and the panic buying among the people were the result of Maude's "rash and foolish reaction" to the situation.

Diane Hill, 46, from York, was burnt when she tried to decant petrol from one can into another in her kitchen. She was reportedly pouring out the fuel for her daughter. The gas cooker was on and the petrol vapours ignited. She ran into her garden screaming where she and her sister ripped off her clothes, reported the Telegraph. She was later taken to Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield, West Yorks, where her condition was described as "critical but stable", the paper said.

Prime Minister David Cameron termed the incident desperate while acknowledging that his heart went out to her.

The government has changed its stance as the fuel tanker drivers union, Unite, ruled out any strike over Easter.

"There is no urgency to top up your tank, a strike will not happen over Easter," said the Department for Energy and Climate Change on its website. For days the department has been urging citizens to fill up if their tanks dropped below two-thirds full.

At the same time, Unite has not ruled out a strike if the talks which are to start in the coming week fail.

"It remains vital we take necessary steps to keep the country safe in case there is a strike," the PA quoted a government spokesman as saying.

Petrol sales soared by 172 per cent on Thursday and diesel sales were up nearly 77 per cent.