At least 100 inmates, some of them armed, escaped a Haitian prison near the capital Port-au-Prince during a mutiny, killing at least one guard, a source close to the investigation said Sunday.
Local media, citing police, said 172 prisoners had fled the Arcahaie facility, located on the coast northwest of the capital Port-au-Prince.
A preliminary investigation indicates a guard forgot to lock a door Saturday as the inmates were eating. The prisoners left the cafeteria and armed themselves with police weapons, the source said on condition of anonymity.
During the ensuing firefight, the head prison guard was killed and two others were wounded.
Le Nouvelliste newspaper quoted Arcahaie prison manager Heurtelou Paul Colson as saying one prisoner climbed a wall and fell to his death, while two other detainees were wounded and in hospital.
Authorities refused to officially confirm the number of inmates involved or the death toll.
“Special police units are on site to secure the area and prevent those responsible from causing further harm,” the office of interim prime minister Enex Jean-Charles, who also serves as defense minister, said in a statement.
Residents have been asked to cooperate with police, who have launched a manhunt for the escapees, the statement said.
“The government strongly condemns the incidents that took place at Arcahaie prison, targeted in a mutiny by heavily armed individuals.”
The foreign, justice and interior ministers, along with top police officials, headed to the scene after the mutiny.
The US Embassy in Haiti advised all Americans to avoid the area following a “violent prison break.”
Le Nouvelliste reported that the supposed mastermind of the prison break, who was serving time for kidnapping, was arrested, along with about 10 other prisoners.
Prisons in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, suffer from mass overcrowding. Earlier this year, the International Center for Prison Studies said they were at 450 percent of capacity.
A majority of Haitian prisoners are awaiting trial.