The lives of motorists and pedestrians are being put at risk following a spate of thefts of manhole covers in the Cookstown area.
Mid Ulster District Council was forced to close the well known tourist attraction at Tullaghoge Fort to carry out urgent repairs.
Local politicians and police have strongly condemned the thefts and vandalism, describing the incidents “as complete madness”.
Motorists are being warned to be vigilant in case there are further thefts.
Ulster Unionist Councillor Trevor Wilson said he suspected the covers were being stolen for scrap metal.
“If that is the case then someone knows something about this and should report it to the PSNI,” he said.
Councillor Wilson said those responsible were putting the lives of road users at risk and must be stopped.
“It’s a disgrace because cars, cyclists and pedestrians are endangered by this activity,” he added.
SDLP MLA for Mid Ulster Patsy McGlone described it as “extremely dangerous”
Mr McGlone said it was unthinkable the amount of damage or injury that could be caused if a vehicle or pedestrian came in contact with an open manhole.
“This is very reckless of these people and anyone who knows who they are should report them to the police,” he said.
DUP MLA Keith Buchanan “The removal of manhole covers is extremely dangerous and could cause serious damage to vehicles or injury to drivers, their passengers or pedestrians.
" I would urge those responsible to think about their actions and the consequences. If you are aware of missing manholes, please contact Department for Infrastructure directly or contact my office and I will report it on your behalf.”
A PSNI spokesperson said they had received a report of the theft of two manhole covers in the Stewartstown area on Monday.
“The thefts occurred in the Castlefarm Road area and were reported at around 10am on Monday morning,” said a spokesperson.
“The theft of manhole covers is not only an offence in itself but is also extremely dangerous and presents a serious hazard for road users.
“Officers are investigating this matter and would ask anyone with any information or who sees any suspicious activity at manholes to report that activity to police immediately on 101.”
A spokesperson for Mid Ulster Council said: “Unfortunately mindless vandalism to manholes at Tullaghoge Fort over the weekend meant the site had to be closed to the public until repairs could be made.
“That repair work has now been completed and the historic site has reopened.
“The Council wishes to remind everyone that acts of vandalism are crimes and will be reported to the PSNI. We will continue to monitor the site going forward.”
A Department for Infrastructure spokesperson said: “The Department is currently aware of five manhole covers having been stolen in the Mid Ulster area and strongly condemns this reckless and dangerous act which has the potential to result in serious injury or a road fatality.
“Two covers were taken on the Castlefarm Road, Stewartstown while others were stolen on the Mountjoy Road, Ballynafeagh Road and Albany Road. The thefts have been reported to the PSNI.
“The relevant utility providers have been notified and traffic cones have been deployed to highlight the hazard to road users until the manhole covers are replaced.
“Motorists and pedestrians are asked to take additional care and report any issues to DfI Roads as soon as possible. Any information to assist in the recovery of the stolen lids and the identification of the thieves should be passed to the PSNI.”
The public can report any missing manhole covers at the following link https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/services/report-problem-manhole-or-gully-cover