Indian thieves dig 40-metre tunnel to rob bank of hundreds of thousands of dollars

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Indian police on Tuesday were hunting for thieves who tunnelled into a bank and fled with valuables worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The robbers dug a 40-metre tunnel from a nearby house into the state-run Punjab National Bank in northern Haryana state and stole cash, jewellery and other items over the weekend, local media reported.

Police estimate that the thieves' haul is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to the Press Trust of India (PTI).

"The job of the thieves was made easy as the floor of the locker room was an ordinary cement floor commonly seen in houses," said Arun Nehra, a senior state police official, according to PTI.

"It was easily punctured by the robbers" who used low-tech iron tools, he said.

The robbers emptied 77 of more than 350 lockers in the raid, Nehra said, adding the exact value of the stolen items had still to be calculated.

Bank officials, who only discovered the huge hole in the ground on Monday, denied Nehra's claims that the bank's floor was badly constructed. They said the bank's floors were built according to India's central bank specifications.

"The floor was eight-to-nine inches in depth. Even the walls were built of solid concrete," bank manager Malik, who goes by one name, told PTI.

The robbery echoes the plot of Bollywood blockbuster Dhoom (Explosion) in which a motorbike gang plots to break into a series of bank vaults.

Malik said he believed the robbery at his bank was also meticulously planned.

The bank has 35,000 account-holders with savings deposits worth US$20 million (S$25.5 million), Malik said.

Police said an investigation team has been formed to look into the robbery but no arrests had been made.