Great Britain has recently been hit by a wave of metal thieves who appear to spare nothing in their path. Manhole covers, lead from church roofs, electric cables, even memorial statues and plaques with the names of war dead are vanishing in the face of rising demand from Asia and a recycling industry that pays in cash and asks no questions.

The disappearances, which police say cost communities hundreds of millions of pounds a year, even forced a hospital in Wales to postpone critically-needed operations this month when one of its generators was stolen.

The thefts have aroused widespread outrage and are being blamed by some on moral decay, but others point to Britain's current austerity regime as the cause.

Reuters notes that "since January 2009, the price of the type of copper popular with thieves has more than doubled on the London Metal Exchange. Meanwhile, many more Britons' finances are being squeezed by the harshest public spending cuts for a generation, part of government plans to tackle a big budget deficit."

Police are increasing their efforts to deal with the problem, but so far there have been almost no arrests.

This video was uploaded to YouTube by AlJazeeraEnglish on December 30, 2011.