Copper Theft at Sarawak Energy Facilities a Major Safety Concern - Two related deaths over last 12 months

KUCHING, 12 JANUARY 2019, SATURDAY: Copper theft at electrical facilities is a dangerous crime, causing injuries and taking lives. 2019 has already recorded one incident claiming the life of a suspect believed to be attempting to steal copper from Tudan Substation, Miri. In Kuching in May 2018, another copper theft suspect was electrocuted on top of an electrical pole in Pasir Pandak.

Raising the matter as a serious concern, Sarawak Energy Group Chief Executive Officer Datu Sharbini Suhaili said that 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,” said Sharbini.

In the incident on 2 January, 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 with him, was taken to Miri Hospital for treatment but later succumbed to his injuries on 5 January 2019.

“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,” he continued.

Over the past three years from 2016 to 2018, a total 369 vandalism cases were reported causing RM5.33 million worth of damage.  State-wide, an average of 12 cases per month was recorded in 2018. 

In response to the increasing trend since 2016, Sarawak Energy has stepped up its efforts to mitigate the problem including installation of remote monitoring systems, increased patrolling and other initiatives.  In some areas, the measures have shown positive results.  In Miri, recorded cases went down from 24 in 2017 to 5 in 2018. 

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.

“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,” Sharbini added.

The public can contact Sarawak Energy’s 24-hour Customer Care Centre at 1300-88-3111, which operates 7 days a week or immediately call the nearest police station.  Reports can also be logged into SEBcares, Sarawak Energy’s mobile app.

Vandalised equipment found at a Sarawak Energy facility in Kuching

Damaged transformers after it was vandalised. This also caused power interruption to nearby areas

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

Stolen copper wires found at a recycling centre in a joint operation with the police