Approximately 1 200 Indonesian convicts from Jarkata, Indonesia are reportedly on the run from three different detention facilities in devastated Sulawesi after the region was hit by a powerful earthquake and tsunami, a justice ministry official said Monday.
One prison in tsunami-struck Palu city, built to hold just 120 people, had most of its 581 inmates storm past guards and escape to freedom through the walls that collapsed due to the massive 7.5 magnitude shake.
“Initially things were fine but shortly after the earthquake, water erupted from under the prison yard causing prisoners to panic and run onto the road,” said Ministry of Justice official Sri Puguh Utami, adding that the water was not from the tsunami.
“They probably escaped because they feared they would be affected by the earthquake. This is for sure a matter of life and death for the prisoners,” she added.
The arson was thought to have been sparked by angry detainees demanding to see their families.
“They panicked after learning that Donggala was badly hit by the earthquake,” Utami said.
Just over 100 prisoners at the two facilities in Palu were still in jail, however the guards were struggling to keep them fed.