Haitian authorities have launched an urgent manhunt after 174 prison inmates overpowered guards and escaped with weapons and ammunition. One guard was killed in the jailbreak which occurred in the coastal town of Arcahaie, around 30 miles north of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince.

Gunfire was exchanged between police and the rampaging inmates who broke into an area used by the guards, stealing five rifles among other weapons. T

he inmates attacked the guards after they were released from their cells to bathe, according to reports.

The prison is home to 266 inmates. Eleven were caught by police trying to flee the compound on Saturday, 22 October.

Police, backed by UN peacekeepers, have created checkpoints on the Caribbean nation, but the prisoners, most of whom escaped barefooted, do not wear uniforms, making it easier for them to blend in with the local population.

During the chaotic break-out, one guard was killed in a shootout with several other guards injured. One prisoner also died after falling off a wall and hitting his head.

Haiti's justice minister Camille Edouard Junior said according to Reuters: "One guard was killed during the incident. Three prisoners were wounded, including one who died as a consequence of his wounds."

Prisons in the impoverished nation are notoriously overcrowded and it is not clear how many of the escapees were convicted of serious crimes or were waiting for their trials. The Haitian government described the incident as "mutiny" on Twitter.

They said: "The government condemns in the strongest terms the incidents at Arcahaie civil prison, which was targeted on Saturday by a mutiny."

The government confirmed that state police were "on hand to secure the area and take offenders off the streets".

Minister for culture and communication, Marc Aurèle Garcia, said according to the Daily Express: "The government invites local residents to show vigilance and collaboration with law enforcement." The US embassy in the country issued a security message describing "a violent prison break in Arcahaie", and warning citizens to avoid the area.

The prison break comes at the country is reeling from the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew which killed about 1,000 people on the Caribbean island. More than 1.4 million people are in need of aid, including 175,000 who lost their homes and crops.

Arcahaie prison
Arcahaie prison is located 30 miles from the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince Henry Beaucejour / Twitter