Two convicted murderers have escaped a maximum security prison in upstate New York, police have confirmed.

Richard Matt, 48, and David Sweat, 34, escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, 20 miles (32km) from the Canadian border.

In scenes reminiscent of the Hollywood jailbreak movie The Shawshank Redemption, the two men were not present for a Saturday morning bed check. Officials are bewildered as to how or when the inmates made their escape from their cells.

Matt, was serving 25 years to life for three counts of murder, kidnapping and robbery after he beat a man to death in 1997.

Sweat was serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for the murder of a sheriff's deputy.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo cancelled plans to attend Saturday's Belmont Stakes horse race to attend a briefing about the manhunt.

Roadblocks have been set up around the Dannemora area as the manhunt continues.

Sweat is a 5ft 11in white male with brown hair and green eyes, weighing 165lbs, police said. He has tattoos on his left bicep and his right fingers.

Matt is a 6ft white male with black hair and hazel eyes, according to police. He weighs 210lbs and has tattoos including "Mexico Forever" on his back, a heart on his chest and left shoulder and a Marine Corps insignia on his right shoulder.

Police have launched a manhunt and have warned that no one should approach the men, who are considered a danger to the public.