MEDAN, Indonesia — Authorities were searching for scores of inmates, including terrorists, who escaped a crowded Indonesian prison that was still burning Friday after prisoners set fires and started a deadly riot at the facility in the nation’s third-largest city.
Thousands of policemen and soldiers are deployed around Tanjung Gusta prison to blockade roads linking Medan, the capital of North Sumatra, to other provinces, while fire brigades were battling the fires.
About 200 prisoners escaped following the riot late Thursday in which three prison employees and two inmates were killed.
Officers deployed to hunt the escaped inmates have re-arrested 55 of them and are still searching for remaining inmates who are still at large, said local police chief in Lt. Col. Nico Afinta. Three of 22 convicted terrorists have been recaptured.
He said the prison employees who died, including a woman, were trapped and killed in an office building that was burned by prisoners during late Thursday’s riot.
The riot appeared to have been triggered by a power blackout that knocked out water pumps, leaving inmates without water since Thursday morning.
Inmates forced their way out from the prison while others set offices on fire and held about 15 officers captive inside the prison, prison directorate spokesman Akbar Hadi said. None of the hostages was still being held Friday morning.
The facility holds nearly 2,600 prisoners, while its normal capacity is 1,500, Hadi said.
Witnesses said gunshots were heard from inside the prison, and television footage showed security forces carrying a white body bag into an ambulance from the burning prison. The fire sent raging orange flames jumping several meters into the air and a huge column of black smoke billowing over the jail.
Hadi estimated about 500 inmates were resisting calls to stop the riot and said an evacuation was planned for the safety of inmates who could become hostages as tensions showed no signs of easing.
Deputy Justice Minister Denny Indrayana, who is in Medan overseeing the operation, has requested evacuation of all inmates and appealed those remaining escapees to give themselves to the authorities.
“Legal action will be taken to chase them, and tougher action will be applied to those who refuse to surrender,” Indrayana said.
No further information was available on injuries.