Authorities in Western Australia (WA) have warned residents living near Greenough Regional Prison (400 km north of Perth) to lock their doors and windows on Wednesday after 10 inmates escaped the facility in a mass breakout.
It's understood the men were able to flee using a ladder on Tuesday afternoon, when a serious incident drew the attention of guards.
"It started with a cell fire and then there were a couple of other fires lit in the prison," corrective services commissioner Tony Hassall told local media.
"They broke into some staff offices, got some equipment and used that to cause some damage."
"From the information I have, they got some equipment and scaled the perimeter fence."
With road blocks in place and ambulances seen entering the prison, terrified residents were immediately sent text messages and automatic phone calls to alert them of the dangers.
"It is a pretty disturbing situation and I just urge everyone in Greenough and Geraldton and the surrounding communities to heed the warnings that police are providing which is to be careful, take precautions, lock your doors, and report suspicious activity," WA Premier Mark McGowan said.
Although five of the men were recaptured overnight, the others still remain at large.
WA police inspector Geoff Desanges stressed that the remaining escapees should be treated as "unpredictable" with the "potential for violence."
Significant resources have been deployed to assist local efforts in Geraldton including our regional investigations unit, regional operations group, tactical response group, detectives and uniformed officers, he said.
"We continue to urge members of the public in and around the Geraldton area to be mindful of their personal security, be conscious of ensuring their premises are secured, vehicles are locked, and that they are aware of what's happening around them."
Designed to hold 223 inmates, a report last year by the State's Custodial Services revealed the facility was vastly over capacity with 323 prisoners.