PIEDRAS NEGRAS, Mexico (AP) — More than 130 inmates escaped through a tunnel from a prison in northern Mexico on Monday, setting off a massive search by police and soldiers in an area close to the U.S. border.
Authorities in Coahuila state said the 132 inmates fled the prison in Piedras Negras, a city across the border from Eagle Pass, Texas, through a tunnel that was 21 feet long and 4 feet in diameter, then cut their way through a chain link barrier and escaped onto a neighboring property.
Coahuila Attorney General Homero Ramos Gloria said the director and two other employees of the state prison have been detained for an investigation into the escape and are being questioned about possible involvement by authorities at the penitentiary. The prison houses about 730 inmates and the escape represented almost a fifth of its population.
The tunnel "was not made today. It had been there for months," Ramos told the Milenio TV station. "The prison was not overcrowded, none of our prisons are. We have 132 inmates escaping through a tunnel, and it doesn't make sense."
Authorities say they also found ropes and electric cables they believe were used in the break.
Federal police units and Mexican troops were deployed to search for the inmates and authorities in Coahuila state offered rewards of up to $15,000 for information leading to the arrests of each prisoner.
Ramos said 70 members of an elite military special forces unit had been sent to search for the prison along with federal police.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it was aware of the prison break and officials are in communication with Mexican law enforcement, according to an e-mailed statement.