Miscreants have broken into the 180-year-old Sri Maha Mariamman Temple situated in Malaysia's Penang District, robbing off valuables amounting to RM 50,000.

The robbers apparently broke into the temple premises and dug up several statues to retrieve valuable gem stones placed underneath.

"The statues of the deities were ripped off from the altar where the valuables were kept," police chief Assistant Commissioner Gan Kong Meng told New Strait Times.

At least 10 statues in the temple have been damaged and 36 precious gems and jewels were stolen.

An undisclosed amount of money from drawers of the temple priest and clerk were also reportedly missing, according to The Star.

Management in charge of the 180-year-old temple, M. Ramachandran, executive director of Penang Hindu Endowment Board, told the Star, "This is an unfortunate incident. The thieves could have spent some time in the temple before they carted away the valuables."

"The statues were cemented to the floor and the precious stones were kept underneath. They had to dig up the statues to get to the valuables. However, the main Maria­mman statue was left untouched as it is kept in a locked room," he added.

Even though the probe into the robbery has begun, it will be a feat to arrest the culprits since the temple or the surrounding areas have no security cameras to provide any lead. Police is seeking witness' account in the investigation.

Officials said the robbers entered the temple premises after breaking into the metal gates and it came to light only after temple caretaker sensed something amiss after his arrival at the shrine.   

A similar case of temple robbery was recorded in December last year when robbers sweeped off RM500,000 gold from the Penang Street Kovil Veedu Temple and killed the caretaker.

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