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More than 50 prisoners escape

PORT MORESBY, Sept 28 – More than 50 prisoners escaped from a Papua New Guinea jail after wardens failed to show up for work and police were busy guarding a rugby match, officials and a report said on Monday.

Most of the 54 inmates were still at large after fleeing from Bomana Correctional Institution near Port Moresby on Sunday by making a hole in a steel fence around their cell block, a prisons official said.

"We’ve got about 50 still on the run," the official told AFP, adding four had been recaptured. "The situation is still tense there," he said.

The official said the breakout was not discovered for "some hours" because many wardens, who are involved in a pay dispute, had not appeared for work on Sunday at the prison, which houses some 600 to 700 inmates.

The mass break-out also took place as the Papua New Guinean prime minister’s XIII took on the Australian prime minister’s XIII in Port Moresby.

"I am not really sure whether any were involved in looking at the match," the official said. "It was more likely negligence of duty."

Police commander Chief Superintendent Fred Yakasa told The National newspaper the match had left his officers unable to respond quickly.

"We were tied up at a security operation at the rugby league ground, and could not do much," Yakasa told the newspaper.

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The prison official was unable to say what offences the escapees had been charged with but said that 22 had been convicted.

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