KUALA LUMPUR: Three World War II shipwrecks off the coast of Malaysia – the final resting place of dozens of seamen – have almost disappeared, local divers say, with the finger pointing at possible scrap metal scavengers. The Japanese cargo vessels, which went down with their crews off the coast of Sabah in 1944, had become popular dive sites, teeming with fish and coral. But local operators say the wrecks have been reduced to rumps, stripped of valuable metals that they believe are being sold on for profit. Mark Hedger, owner of a diving centre in Sabah and a frequent visitor to the sites, told Agence France-Presse they had now almost disappeared. “The Usukan and Upside Down wrecks are 98 percent and 99 percent gone. The Rice Bowl wreck is a heap of metal piled up into a ball,” he said, referring to the wrecks’ local names. There are scores of WWII shipwrecks littered throughout Southeast Asia, the result of fierce naval battles between Japanese and Allied forces. The wrecks, some of which have never been properly documented, are treated as war graves because the bodies of the crews were never recovered. But there have been growing reports in recent years of scavengers stripping off saleable materials, with several cases reported off the coast of Indonesia.