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ARGENTINA | 07-05-2024 17:27

Four people dead after theft of wiring, latest in surge of such crimes

Four people have been found dead with signs of burns and electrocution opposite a hospital south of Buenos Aires Province.

Four people have been found dead with signs of electrocution inside a van opposite a hospital south of Buenos Aires Province, after taking part in the theft of high-tension power lines, police said Tuesday.

The deaths are the latest in a surge of such crimes in Argentina, which are accelerating amid economic hardship.

A fifth person was found alive inside the vehicle and was hospitalised with severe burns at the Municipal Hospital in Bahía Blanca. The individual will be questioned after his recovery. 

Inside the van, which the police detected fleeing at midnight at high speed, “four people were riding in the back” in “poor condition,” local police chief Gonzalo Bezos told the press.

He said four were determined to be dead upon discovery, while the other was seriously injured. 

The victims, aged between 18 to 32, “had burns and signs of electrocution,” said Bezos.

“It was determined that they had attempted to steal wiring from high-tension power lines” and had been electrocuted, he added.

The driver, who fled and was later arrested, turned out to be the father of one of the deceased.

Although there are no official statistics on such crimes, reports of theft of copper wiring, especially in rural areas, are becoming increasingly frequent.

Argentina is immersed in a deep economic crisis with over half its population of 47 million people in poverty.

Back in March, a raid on a home in Bahía Blanca led to over 3,000 metres of stolen wiring being seized. That same month, the image of a young man hanging from the power lines while trying to cut them with a knife was captured by a motorist. The footage of the incident, which took place in Resistencia, Chaco Province, went viral on social media.

Also in March, a 20-year-old youth was hospitalised with severe burns after getting an electrical discharge while attempting to steal underground cables in Rosario.

In La Plata, local police had to rescue the body of a man last weekend who was hanging from the power lines after trying to cut them.

The going rate for copper is around 7,000 pesos per kilo (some US$7.50 at the official exchange rate) at shops which buy the metal to then melt it down.

Buenos Aires City also sees plenty of theft of copper pipes which supply homes with natural gas, with the ensuing risk of leaks.

 

– TIMES/AFP

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