Latest grisly prison riot in the South American country leaves at least 43 inmates dead while more than 100 others are still at large, officials say.

During the riot, at least 112 people tried to escape but were detained by security forces inside the prison grounds, officials say.
During the riot, at least 112 people tried to escape but were detained by security forces inside the prison grounds, officials say. (AFP)

More than 100 inmates have escaped after a prison riot in Ecuador that claimed the lives of 43 others, a senior police official said.

A total of 108 were missing after another 112 escaped prisoners were recaptured after the outbreak at the Bellavista jail in the city of Santo Domingo, police chief Fausto Salinas told reporters on Monday.

Authorities said the violence broke out between the gangs inside Bellavista prison in Santo Domingo de los Colorados, in the centre of Ecuador, some 80 kilometres from Quito.

"For now there are 43 inmates dead," said the public prosecutor's office on Twitter, adding that the situation was "developing".

Interior Minister Patricio Carrillo said, during the riot, at least 112 people tried to escape but were detained by security forces inside the prison grounds.

READ MORE: Jolted by deadly prison riots, Ecuador to pardon 5,000 inmates

Gangs vying for control

Inmates with facial injuries were taken by truck and ambulance to medical facilities while family members of those incarcerated gathered at the prison looking for information, the AFP news agency reporters at the scene said.

Authorities have said they will carry out a search for weapons and transfer gang leaders to a different prison.

Prior to this one, around 350 inmates had been killed in five separate prison riots since February 2021. Just last month, at least 20 inmates died inside the El Turi prison in Cuenca, southern Ecuador.

Ecuadoran President Guillermo Lasso insists the problem inside the facilities mirrors that outside, where drug gangs are vying for control of trafficking routes.

Those rivalries among inmates sometimes explode into violence, with some prisoners hacked to death or beheaded with machetes.

Ecuador has also seen a rise in street crime and drug trafficking, which the government has tried to tackle by declaring a state of emergency in the three worst-affected provinces — Guayas, Manabi and Esmeraldas.

The country seized a record 210 tonnes of drugs in 2021 and has already seized another 82 tonnes this year.

READ MORE: Ecuador imposes state of emergency on several cities in fight against crime

Source: AFP