Metal thieves blackout street lights on A19 approach road in County Durham.

Drivers are being urged to take extra care at a busy County Durham road junction after metal thieves targeted street lights.

Sixteen lighting columns on the approach to the A181 junction with the A19 at Wellfield, near Peterlee, have been put out of action.

Thieves have wrecked the lights to get to copper cabling, leaving live wires exposed in the process.

Durham County Council said the columns had been made safe pending repairs.

Lethal charge

The council's corporate director for neighbourhood services, Terry Collins, said: "These thoughtless criminals have risked not only their own lives, but those of others.

"The exposed wiring left by the thieves carries a potentially lethal power charge and could easily be touched by unsuspecting children.

"In addition, the damage caused will cost the council a great deal of money to repair at a time when funding is very tight and an area of our highway has been left in the dark while this work is carried out.

"There have been at least 16 street lights targeted. All columns have been made safe.

"However the lighting on the A181 junction towards the A19 has been affected, until permanent repair work can be carried out."

Durham Police are investigating the thefts.

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