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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 January, 2004, 09:27 GMT
China manhole thefts prove deadly
Authorities in the Chinese city of Shanghai have called for greater punishment for manhole cover thieves, after it transpired that eight people had fallen down uncovered holes and died since last June.

China's state Xinhua news agency said that at the moment, the punishment for such theft is in line with the value of the stolen goods.

So, for example, one manhole thief was only sentenced to two weeks in prison, said Zhu Jiong, a Municipal Water Resources Bureau official.

Those who have died include a four-year-old boy and a woman in her 80s. They both drowned after falling into underground drainage facilities or other utilities pipelines.

Precious scrap

The attraction of stolen manhole covers is that they can earn the thief about 33 yuan (US$4) from scrap dealers - about a day's wage for labourers.

Mr Zhu said that in the past 45 days, 1,826 covers had been stolen, causing a loss of about 460,000 yuan.

"But even worse than the economic loss, manholes without covers endanger pedestrians, especially at night or those people with poor sight," he said.

"We hope the government will enforce the supervision over waste recycling centres and impose harsh punishment on the thieves," the agency quoted Yin Xiaohu, a member of the Shanghai Committee of Shanghai People's Political Consultative Conference, as saying.

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