US police have announced a manhunt after two convicted murderers escaped from a maximum security prison using heavy duty power tools.

More than 200 local, state and federal law enforcement officials set up roadblocks, took to the air and went door-to-door on Sunday in their search for Richard Matt, 48, and David Sweat, 34.

The two broke out from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, about 515km north of New York City, before cell inspections on Saturday morning.

A statement posted on the New York State Police department's Facebook page said the pair had been convicted in separate murder cases and faced spending the rest of their lives in prison.

New York is offering a $100,000 reward for information leading to the apprehension of the men.

Police officials have warned people not to approach the two, warning the pair pose a danger to members of the public.

"Anyone in the Dannemora area should contact the New York State Police if they saw or heard anything early this morning, or find that they have a vehicle which is unaccounted for," the statement said.

New York state's governor, Andrew Cuomo, who had visited the site of the escape, posted a number of pictures of the scene on his Twitter account. 

The photos show a metallic tunnel pipe with a section cut out, and drill marks the pair had left burrowing through the concrete floors of the prison.

Taunting note

The pair also appears to have left an image taunting authorities, showing a cartoon depiction of an East Asian man, with a caption reading "Have a nice day."

The method of escape resembled the one depicted in the movie Shawshank Redemption, where the film's lead protagonist breaks through a wall in his cell and escapes through a sewage pipe.

Cuomo described the escape, the first from the prison's maximum security facility in its 150 year history, as "sophisticated", the Reuters news agency reported.

"You look at the precision of the operation. It was truly extraordinary," Cuomo said at a press conference outside the prison, known as "Little Siberia" for its remote location and the region's cold climate.

"These are not people to be trifled with," the governor added.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies