Police have shot dead 11 escaped inmates after a mass break-out from Buimo jail in Papua New Guinea’s city of Lae, local media reports say.
More than 30 prisoners were still at large after Friday’s break-out with only one recaptured, PNG newspapers The National and The Post-Courier reported on Monday.
Correctional Services Commissioner Stephen Pokanis said there was a shortage of warders at the prison because one had tested positive to Covid-19, forcing 50 off work to undergo 14 days of isolation.
He said of the 45 inmates who escaped, 10 were convicted prisoners and 35 were on remand.
Commissioner Pokanis said Buimo’s commanding officer Judy Tara told him that those on remand had expressed frustration at long delays in hearing their court cases.
“She explained to them that court hearings had been limited due to Covid-19 but they did not accept the reasons explained to them,” Mr Pokanis told The National.
He said the inmates gathered at the prison gate demanding to take a sick prisoner to the health clinic and once the gate was opened they overpowered the guards and dashed out.
Correctional Services Minister Chris Nangoi said the inmates threatened the guards with knives and a catapult.
“They tried to kill the guards and then made their escape.”
Mr Pokanis said the alarm was raised and Lae police joined the search for the escapees “and in the process shot the 11 and recaptured one”, The Post-Courier reported.
There have been six break-outs at PNG’s second-largest prison since 2015, with 32 inmates killed and 138 still at large after those escapes.
The prison is meant to accommodate 436 inmates but houses more than 1000.