Can 2020 get any worse? Theft of 36 manhole covers in Leiria, Portugal prompts serious safety concerns

With a little more than a week left of 2020 to go, a new ‘danger’ has been identified in Leiria.

In the last few days 36 40-kilo manhole covers have simply vanished.

The situation is critical.

SMAS, the municipalised services for water and sanitation, is asking people to be ‘vigilant’ (particularly to watch where they are going), outlining the obvious: “the lack of a manhole cover can provoke accidents in the street”.

According to reports there has already been at least one incident involving a car that suffered damage.

Up till now SMAS Leiria has been replacing the stolen covers, but stocks have run out. 

Says tabloid Correio da Manhã, SMAS has requested a new supply of manhole covers. Where will this end?

A source has told the paper that “a degree of logistic organisation” is required to remove and transport these covers. “They’re heavy!”

Said the source, the heists began last weekend and may have been indirectly prompted by the pandemic: these manhole covers are made of iron, which is sold by weight. It’s the only explanation SMAS can think of that could explain so many manhole covers disappearing in such a short space of time.

Investigations are obviously underway. Police are being called in to look into the mystery.

SMAS’ greatest concern is that it won’t be able to keep up with the thefts and further accidents and serious injuries could follow.

Managing director Leandro Sousa has told Lusa that “right now we have a team doing the rounds of the borough, but it may not be able to identify all the stolen covers…”

The watchward is ‘vigilance’ (even for SMAS’ team). With all the difficulties associated with wearing masks and trying to keep a healthy distance from others, people now have to really watch where they are putting their feet… in Leiria at least.

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