Unidentified thieves have dug out and stolen some 170 metres of in-field gas pipes and a gas flaring unit at the Uchkir field in the Bukhara region in Uzbekistan, state owned oil and gas producer Uzbekneftegaz has revealed.

The criminals were undeterred by a heatwave that has been stifling the country in July, with air temperatures approaching 50 degrees Celsius.

Uzbekneftegaz had to call the National Guard to support its own investigation and soon traced the stolen pipes to a backyard repair and construction shop, located in the same administrative district that hosts the Uchkir field.

Shop owners claimed that the pipes were sold by an unidentified stranger claiming to selling off his assets in order to pay back his debts.

Uzbekneftegaz passed evidence to the local police force, hoping to catch the pipe robbers, but the investigation lost momentum when it emerged that the pursuit would only be resumed after the heat wave had abated.