By Samantha Stevenson
174 inmates escaped from prison on October 22 after killing a guard and stealing firearms. The jailbreak occurred in the Haitian coastal town of Arcahaie, which International Business Times reports is about 30 miles from Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince.
BBC reports that the inmates stole at least five rifles and exchanged fire with the guards, leaving one guard dead and three prisoners injured. According to Al Jazeera, one prisoner died during the jailbreak after falling off a wall and hitting his head.
The Guardian reports that the inmates attacked when they were released from a cramped holding pen to bathe. Haitian prisons are notoriously overcrowded, with many inmates stuck for years in pre-trial detention.
It was unclear how many of the escapees were convicted of violent crimes and how many were awaiting trial, reports The Guardian.
Al Jazeera reports that local authorities were engaged in a manhunt with support from United Nations peacekeepers. Shortly after the jailbreak, police detained several people without identity cards after setting up checkpoints on roads leading from the jail. However, the 266 prisoners of Arcahaie, most of whom escaped barefoot, do not wear uniforms, making it easy for the escapees to blend in with civilians.
According to the BBC, Justice Minister Camille Edouard Jr. said the alleged mastermind of the prison break was Yvener Carelus, who was convicted for kidnapping. Carelus “planned the escape from the inside with a few accomplices,” Edouard said. Carelus was one of the 10 men recaptured after the escape.
Prime Minister Enex Jean-Charles called the breakout a “mutiny.” “The government condemns in the strongest terms the incidents at Arcahaie civil prison, which was targeted on Saturday [October 22] by a mutiny,” the Haitian government posted on Twitter, according to the International Business Times.
“The government invites local residents to show vigilance and collaboration with law enforcement,” said Marc Aurele Garcia, the minister for culture and communication, reports the International Business Times. The United States Embassy in Haiti also released a security message warning citizens to avoid the area of Arcahaie.
This is not the first time Haiti has had a jailbreak of this magnitude. In August 2014, a Haitian prison in Croix-des-Bouquets experienced the escape of 329 inmates.
According to Al Jazeera, the 2014 jailbreak happened after a gang raided the prison to free Clifford Brandt, the son of a prominent businessman. Brandt had been held in the prison since 2012 on charges of kidnapping at least two children. Two guards suffered gunshot wounds in the attack.
At the time, Al Jazeera reports that police spokesman Gary Desroiers said that the raid “was a conspiracy carried out inside the prison that caused the escape,” and that there had been “no attack from outside, contrary to what had been announced.”
According to BBC, the Croix-des-Bouquets prison held over 800 inmates prior to the attack.
The recent Arcahaie jailbreak comes just weeks after Hurricane Matthew devastated Haiti. The Weather Channel reports that the hurricane hit the country as a Category 4 storm, with winds going over 140 miles per hour.
Hurricane Matthew left over 1,000 dead, according to Fortune, with authorities forced to bury some of the dead in mass graves.
The hurricane has also caused concern for an outbreak of cholera, which Fortune says can kill within hours if left untreated. Al Jazeera reports that over 500 Haitians are currently infected with cholera.
According to ABC, an estimated 1.4 million people are now in need of food assistance, with 800,000 of those in “dire need of immediate food assistance.” Fortune reports that Hurricane Matthew was the Caribbean’s most powerful storm in nearly a decade.