Page last updated at 13:45 GMT, Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Copper thieves electrocuted in SA

Power lines in Johannesburg (Photo courtesy of Giuseppe - justheppy on
Copper thieves sometimes use ladders (Photo: Giuseppe - justheppy on Flickr)

Two men near the South African city of Johannesburg have been electrocuted while trying to steal copper wire from power cables just after first light.

"They tried to pull the cables using wires; they were standing on the ground," a Johannesburg Emergency Management Services spokesman said.

Percy Morokane told the BBC that in 70% of reported cases of power cable theft, suspects are either killed or maimed.

Stolen copper is often sold to scrap yards, which then export it.

Mr Morokane said the two men, who were thought to be aged between 25 and 30, were trying to steal the copper from power lines running near a main road between Johannesburg and Pretoria.

Copper-wire theft is a problem around Johannesburg, but was not an everyday occurrence, he said.

They lack skill to work with electric equipment
Percy Morokane
Johannesburg emergency services

In some South African provinces, people have been reported to use stepladders to reach the cables, but in this case the thieves were trying to pull them down from the ground.

Mr Morokane said the power lines had between 3,000 kilowatts and 6,000 kilowatts running through them.

"It's a very tricky and dangerous exercise… They lack skill and expertise to work with electric equipment," he said.

The case had been handed over the South African Police Service.

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