Lae breakout

Main Stories, National

SEVENTY-THREE prisoners fought their way out of the Buimo jail in Lae, Morobe province, after overpowering three warders in a mass breakout around 1.15pm yesterday.
In their bid to escape, the prisoners took the jail commander, Supt Samson Jaro, hostage for almost three hours while using one of the young officers as a human shield in their escape, Correctional Services Deputy Commissioner (operations) Henry Wavik said yesterday.
Mr Wavik said all the prisoners were considered hardcore, with 22 being convicted while 51 were remandees awaiting court appearances.
He said prison guards at the tower fired shots and sounded the siren after the prisoners had cut through the two cyclone fences.
Warders rushed in to assist but they were outnumbered and could not prevent the breakout.
Mr Wavik said that the young officer was held as a human shield as prisoners escaped through the open fence.
Supt Jaro’s attempts to intervene also proved futile as he himself was taken hostage for three hours, during which the prisoners slashed Supt Jaro’s hand.
Mr Wavik said officers could not act for fear of what the prisoners might do to the two hostages.
In the operation to recapture the escaped prisoners, one of them was shot dead while two others were seriously injured and are being treated at the Angau Memorial General Hospital. Seventy others remain at large.
Mr Wavik said he felt for his men in the CS who were suffering a shortage of manpower.Mr Wavik indicated that the CS had been understaffed throughout the year and expected the situation to continue into next year.
“I am bracing for a bad Christmas this year with the skeleton staff we have,” he said.
The acute shortage of manpower was obvious in other provinces, with similar breakouts occurring in recent weeks in several Highlands prisons.
In Mt Hagen’s Baisu jail where there was a breakout last Thursday, and two recent attempts at mass breakouts due to a food shortage, the ratio is three guards to 600 prisoners.
There was also a breakout last Friday, at the Barawagi jail in Simbu province, where a lone guard manning the gates was belted up by 11 prisoners before they escaped.
Warders recaptured five while six remain at large.
The following day at Bundaira jail in Kainantu, Eastern Highlands province, 11 prisoners managed to escape at about 10am during visiting hours.
In that incident, armed men stormed the jail and fought against the officers.
One female officer was taken hostage but she managed to free herself and fled.
Police shot dead two escapees, Mr Wavik said.
In retaliation to that, there has been an ongoing gun battle between the gangsters and CS officers since Tuesday.
Mr Wavik appealed to the public to help the CS recapture the escapees.
In Lae, police have launched a major offensive by trying to cordon a 10km radius that spans from the jail to East Taraka, West Taraka and over the Atzera range to the notorious Four-Mile and Five-Mile settlements.
Lae metropolitan commander Supt Nema Mondiai yesterday said the prisoners walked out at 1.25pm.
Supt Jaro was held hostage by the escapees who demanded the release of all prisoners.
The situation at the jail yesterday evening was still very tense, with officers in a state of shock.
Family members of warders were also scared.
Officers at all law and justice sector agencies are in shock and fear after learning of the jailbreak.
When word got out onto the streets of Lae yesterday, large sections of the community were gripped by fear.
Comments could not be obtained from Supt Jaro as he was rushed to a doctor to seek treatment for shock and the injury he sustained.