Prisoners fled during Chile earthquake but many have returned

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 April, 2014, 11:18pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 April, 2014, 11:18pm

Nearly 300 woman prisoners in northern Chile took advantage of Tuesday's massive earthquake to escape from a jail, although many have since returned.

Local police said the prisoners fled after the 8.2-magnitude earthquake. The jail, situated in the port town of Iquique, west of the Atacama Desert, was evacuated as it was at risk of being inundated by a tsunami. Police said 293 of the 320 inmates had escaped.

The town was in darkness at the time, with the electricity supply cut off. Gabriel Silber, a lawmaker in Chile's lower house of congress, said the women escaped when a prison wall collapsed.

"There were structural weaknesses," said Silber. "It was the weak point in what should have been an impeccable evacuation process. Fortunately, they are low security inmates."

The government sent the armed forces in as a "preventative measure", but police said 131 of the prisoners had voluntarily returned the next day. Many reportedly visited their family before giving themselves up.