Sydney (AFP) - Seventeen prisoners have been shot dead after a mass breakout at a jail in Papua New Guinea, police said on Monday, with 57 still on the run.
Inmates from the Buimo jail in the Pacific nation's second largest city of Lae made a dash for freedom after breaking out of their compound on Friday, with prison warders opening fire.
The Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary said in a statement 17 were killed, three were caught and 57 were still at large.
"These are undesirable people and will be a threat to the community,? Lae police metropolitan commander Chief Superintendent Anthony Wagambie Jr said of the escapees, warning the public to be vigilant.
"The majority of those who escaped were arrested for serious crimes and were in custody awaiting trial.
"A good number were arrested by police last year for mainly armed robberies, car thefts, break and enter and stealing."
Police shot dead 12 inmates during a jailbreak at the same prison last year. In 2015 more than 50 prisoners escaped from the same facility.
Jails in PNG are often overcrowded and conditions are poor.
Wagambie said locals in Lae should brace for a spate of crime.
"We experienced an upsurge of criminal activities when Buimo jail reported a mass breakout last year," he said, urging family members and associates of the escapees not to harbour them.
"I am warning them that they will be caught. They must do what is good for them and surrender.?
Crime and lawlessness is rampant in PNG, a sprawling nation where many still live traditional and subsistence lives in remote areas.