Stealing cables just ‘not worth the risk’

KUCHING: Copper theft at electrical facilities is a dangerous crime, causing injuries and taking lives. Barely into the new year and already another incident has occurred, claiming the life of a suspect believed to be attempting to steal copper from Tudan Substation, Miri.

In May last year, a copper theft suspect was electrocuted on top of an electrical pole in Pasir Pandak near the city.

Raising the matter as a serious concern in a media statement yesterday, Sarawak Energy Group chief executive officer Datu Sharbini Suhaili said despite awareness campaigns and mitigation measures, incidents of vandalism and theft at electrical facilities are still happening.

“Being too close to live electrical facilities is extremely dangerous and stealing cables can result in flashovers or electrocution, burns and even death.

“These regretful incidents are tragic examples of how stealing cables is not worth the risk,” he said in the statement.

Stolen copper wires found at a recycling centre in a joint operation by Sarawak Energy and the police.

In the most recent incident on Jan 2, Sarawak Energy’s remote monitoring system triggered an alert on a power trip at Tudan Substation to Kuala Baram.

The technical crew dispatched to the substation found a man suffering serious burns from a flashover.

Further checks on site found that one of the cables was cut.

The man, who had no identification documents with him, was taken to Miri Hospital for treatment but later succumbed to his injuries on Jan 5.

Sharbini pointed out: “Those who target electrical facilities for quick cash are risking their lives for small gains. They are putting themselves in danger and damaging facilities, causing outages and inconvenience to the public.”

Over the past three years from 2016, a total of 369 vandalism cases were reported causing RM5.33 million worth of damage.

Close cooperation with the police, constant patrol and public tip-off have led to several arrests.

Last year alone, Sarawak recorded an average of 12 cases per month .

Sarawak Energy said it has stepped up its efforts to mitigate the problem including installation of remote monitoring systems and increased patrolling.

Damaged transformers after being vandalised, causing power interruption to nearby areas.

In some areas, the measures have shown positive results.

In Miri, recorded cases went down from 24 in 2017 to five last year.

Sarawak Energy is also working closely with the police in joint operations to carry out checks at recycling centres to deter trade in stolen copper cables among second-hand dealers, said the statement.

“Sarawak Energy will continue to work closely with the police to curb these incidences. But we also need continuous public assistance to inform us of any suspicious individuals near our facilities.

“This can avoid unnecessary power interruptions or even fatalities,” added Sharbini.

Members of the public can call Sarawak Energy’s 24-hour Customer Care Centre at 1300-88-3111 or immediately call the nearest police station.

Reports can also be logged into SEBcares, Sarawak Energy’s mobile app.