One prison officer was killed and seven others were injured during a jailbreak in South America’s Guyana that saw inmates set fire to the facility and four prisoners escape, authorities said. Chaos broke out at the colonial-era maximum security prison in the capital city of Georgetown after inmates obtained firearms and took control of the facility, with police and fire officials initially unable to enter the compound.
Prisoners set the facility ablaze in an effort to distract guards, Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan told journalists, calling the escapees “very serious criminals.” Eight police officers were injured, one of whom died during treatment for a gunshot injury to his chest.
Heavily armed soldiers had taken up strategic positions around the facility in the former British colony, home to just over 750,000.
Police Commissioner Seelall Persaud said authorities in neighboring Suriname were on high alert in the search for escapee Royden Williams, who was sentenced to death in February for killing eight people, and Uree Varswyck, whose trial for robbery and murder was pending.
The identities of the other inmates who fled were not immediately known.
Prison Chief Gladwin Samuels said there were no immediate reports of injuries or deaths among prisoners.
A number of inmates also caused havoc at a prison officer’s club building opposite the jail after being escorted there, smashing bottles of alcohol that they poured onto clothing before igniting it.
Ramjattan said more than 1,000 inmates had been relocated to the yard of another prison compound. Some 300 of them would be transferred to other facilities, he said, as authorities figure out where to hold the others.