At least 250 prisoners in the Democratic Republic of Congo have escaped in a mass jailbreak at dawn in Bukavu, an official has told the BBC.
Three people died, including a guard who was overpowered as the prisoners made their escape, the official in the South Kivu governor’s office said.
Police are patrolling Bukavu, which is built on the shores of Lake Kivu in eastern DR Congo, looking for them.
A resident told the BBC that people were hiding in their homes terrified.
The BBC’s DR Congo correspondent Maud Jullien says jailbreaks are fairly common in DR Congo – at least 240 prisoners escaped in another eastern town less than a year ago.
A police officer told the AFP news agency that prison wardens were overcome by the inmates who “took weapons and managed to open the prison door”.
Residents say gunfire rang out in the early morning across the city.
Civil society activists say the number of escapees could be higher as more than 1,500 inmates were inside at the time and officials estimate 80% of the prisoners escaped.
DR Congo’s prisons are often overcrowded and living conditions for inmates are poor.