MIRI: Scrap metal thieves should no longer be categorised just as vandals but as public safety threats because their acts can cause loss of life, said Miri mayor Adam Yii.
As though telephone cables and electricity wires are not enough to feed their greed, scrap metal thieves are now targeting manhole and monsoon drain covers.
The missing covers can cause serious injuries or deaths to those who accidentally fall inside, Yii warned.
Yesterday, firemen in Miri had to squeeze themselves into a deep and narrow drain to rescue an elderly man who fell into it through a gaping hole.
The drain cover was believed to have been stolen.
The elderly man, believed to be in his 60s, fell into the hole that was 3m-deep in front of a petrol station along the Miri-Pujut road at about 7am yesterday.
It was believed that he was on his morning stroll.
Firemen managed to inch their way into the confined space and put him onto a stretcher.
They managed to eventually find an outlet connecting to a monsoon drain and pulled him out into the open, said Miri Fire and Rescue Department chief Supt Law Poh Kiong.
The injured man was taken to the Miri Hospital by ambulance.
Yii said he had ordered council contractors to carry out inspections at all populated locations under the council’s jurisdiction.
“The main road is under the Public Works Department’s control but I have asked our contractors to check on all places.
“This is a public safety issue. The problem we are facing now is widespread as more are stealing these covers in exchange of some money from scrap metal dealers.
“This is posing a serious safety threat to pedestrians.
“These metal thieves must be penalised more severely, not just for vandalism, but for being a threat to public safety,” he said.
Yii noted that telephone and electricity supply companies had been losing millions of ringgit yearly to cable thieves.
These wire thefts also caused losses to public in terms of blackouts and phone disruptions, he added.