JAKARTA, The Indonesian government on Monday said that as many as 1,200 inmates have escaped from three detention facilities in the devastated region of Sulawesi following an earthquake and tsunami disaster.

The mass prison break happened after the powerful tremor sparked a wall of water that devastated the small city of Palu on Friday.

Ministry of Justice official Sri Puguh Utami said inmates had fled from two overcapacity facilities in Palu and another in Donggala, an area also hit by the disaster.

"I'm sure they escaped because they feared they would be affected by the earthquake. This is for sure a matter of life and death for the prisoners," she said.

The facility in Donggala was set on fire and all 343 inmates were now on the run, Sri Puguh said.

According to the Jakarta Post, the fire broke out at the Donggala penitentiary in central Sulawesi after the warden reportedly refused to grant inmates' request to leave the prison and look for family members affected by the earthquake and tsunami.

Most of the convicts were jailed for corruption and narcotics offences, Sri Puguh said.

Five people convicted of terror-related crimes had been moved from the prison just days before the disaster.

The death toll from the twin disasters has surpassed 800 and was expected to rise further, prompting authorities to announce mass burials in a desperate attempt to stave off disease.

As shattered survivors scoured make-shift morgues for loved ones, and authorities struggled to dig out the living or assess the scale of the devastation beyond the city of Palu, grim warnings came that the eventual toll could reach thousands.

Source: NAM News Network

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