They fled the jail but the turbulence of the Kosi in Supaul district compelled them to return. They not only changed their plans for good but also convinced others with similar plans about the futility of fleeing.
The fact came to light on Wednesday when a group of army personnel visited the Birpur jail to inquire into the reported escape of prisoners.
To their utter surprise, the army personnel found the prison staff and 67 prisoners, who had fled, safe in the jail.
The armymen visited the jail on the directive of the state administration, which received a report that all the prisoners lodged in the Birpur jail had escaped after floodwaters entered the premises.
However, 21 prisoners are still reported to be missing. “The tale of horror narrated by four escapees compelled us to change our mind. We decided to stay in jail even after there was a free-for-all. Everyone was seen looking for safety," said an official quoting an undertrial prisoner.
The prison staff and jail inmates, including five women, took shelter on the first floor of the building.
“On seeing a helicopter hovering above, we waved our hands from the rooftop of the building. They dropped some food packets, which we shared with everyone,” said another prisoner.
Sources in the Home Department said all 21 prisoners reported missing were locals. Altogether, 25 prisoners scaled the prison wall with the help of dhotis and escaped. But four of them returned after seeing the extent of devastation caused by the turbulent Kosi, said a senior Prison Department official.
“We have safely shifted 25 jail inmates, including five women prisoners, to Saharsa jail from Birpur jail. The shifting of the remaining 42 prisoners is on,” a jail official said.