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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 December 2006, 15:31 GMT
Cable theft risk to babies' lives
Copper cables
Cables were taken from the back-up generator at the hospital
Thieves who stole copper cabling from a hospital back-up generator twice in a week have endangered lives, staff said.

The emergency generator at the William Harvey Hospital, Kent, powers neo-natal equipment if the mains supply fails.

Chris Hurley, East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust estates manager, said the crime in Ashford threatened babies' lives.

Police said they were checking if any scrap metal dealers had taken delivery of a large amount of copper. It was the latest in a spate of thefts in Kent.

'No thought for lives'

Mr Hurley said: "In the event of a mains power failure, the cables provide power to about a third of the hospital.

"Without the power, a lot of important equipment used in the neo-natal unit will not work."

He said staff at the hospital were "very distressed that this happened without any thought for the lives of people in the hospital".

In June, copper cabling worth tens of thousands of pounds was stolen from the Channel Tunnel Rail Link construction site.

Two months' later, the attempted theft of a live cable at a pumping station in Yalding led to warnings that the offenders could have been seriously injured.

In October, masked robbers attacked a lorry driver, hitting him in the face and threatening him with a metal bar, before stealing copper worth 100,000 from his vehicle.

And late on Monday, copper piping worth 25,000 was taken from a site in Neptune Way, Rochester, police said.

The rising price of copper this year has been blamed for a doubling of related thefts on the railways; crimes where gas pipes to residential homes were targeted; and thefts where even garden statues and lightning conductors were stolen.

A hospital steps up security after copper cable is stolen


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