More than 170 inmates of a northern Haitian prison have escaped after killing a guard and stealing firearms, according to authorities engaged in a manhunt with support from UN peacekeepers.
Judge Henry Claude Louis-Jean said the jail break occurred on Saturday in Arcahaie, a coastal town about 50km north of Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince.
Police in the Caribbean nation have set up checkpoints on roads leading from the jail and detained several people without identity cards.
However, the 266 inmates of Arcahaie prison do not wear uniforms, making it easier for the escapees to hide from authorities.
Eleven inmates were caught during the jail break, which happened when some prisoners were released in to a relatively less secure area for bathing.
The inmates broke into an area used by the guards, stealing at least five rifles among other weapons.
One guard was shot to death.
Camille Edouard Junior, Haiti’s justice minister, said one inmate also died during the jail break after falling off a wall and hitting his head.
“One guard was killed during the incident,” Edouard Junior told Reuters news agency. “Three prisoners were wounded, including one who died as a consequence of his wounds.”
In the aftermath of the escape, videos circulating online showed the guard’s bloodied body lying on the floor surrounded by escapees’ discarded sandals.
The government condemned what it called a “mutiny provoked by heavily armed individuals”, according to a statement quoted by the news website Vant Bef.
Police asked residents of the coastal area to follow authorities’ instructions as a manhunt intensified.
It was not clear if any of the inmates had been recaptured by Saturday evening.
Haiti experienced another major jail break only two years ago when a gang attacked the Croix-des-Bouquets prison and freed hundreds of inmates.
Earlier this month, the country was devastated by Hurricane Matthew.
More than 1,000 people were killed when Matthew crashed ashore on October 4 as a Category 4 storm, carrying winds of 230km per hour.
According to the UN, 1.4 million people are in urgent need of help in Haiti.
Haiti’s Civil Protection Department says more than 500 people are also infected with cholera.