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GASTONIA, N.C. (AP) -- Thieves keep taking manhole covers in Gastonia to sell as scrap metal, even with a new state law requiring business to document and photograph all metal they buy.

Gastonia officials told a media outlet that between 30 and 50 manhole covers have disappeared in the city this year.

Last month, a 66-year-old man spent 12 hours trapped underground until someone heard his cries for help after he fell into an open hole after hopping over a concrete barrier. City officials think the manhole cover protecting the hole was stolen.

With scrap metal going for about 10 cents a pound, the manhole covers are worth anywhere from about $9 to $30 apiece.

Businesses can be fined or eventually shut down for a week if they accept stolen scrap metal.

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