BARRIO – The escapees belong to Brazil’s largest criminal gang, First Command of the Capital (PCC), which has been expanding to neighbouring Paraguay.
It is not clear if the hole was dug by construction workers or the inmates themselves.
Three fugitives have been captures so far.
The jail break happened in the early hours of Tuesday morning in the city of Coronel Oviedo, Paraguayan newspaper ABC reported.
ABC said that the hole in the ground had been left after construction work had been carried out and that police had not been informed of the ‘improvements’ being made at the prison.
But another Paraguayan newspaper, La Tribuna, reported that the hole and the tunnel leading from it had been dug by the inmates themselves.
The hole led from the prison’s washroom to a tunnel which emerged in the exercise yard. From there, the prisoners only had to jump over a fence to reach freedom.
Paraguay’s justice minister told local radio that “clearly there was negligence on the part of the prison authorities because a tunnel like this isn’t built overnight”.
All of the escapees are considered extremely dangerous, police said. They are serving lengthy sentences for crimes ranging from kidnapping to murder. The youngest escapee is 19 and the oldest 40, police said.