GOMA, Congo — A local official says 34 prisoners have escaped a prison in eastern Congo after breaking through brick walls during heavy rains.

South Kivu provincial justice minister Pasaline Basezage said Monday that at least 27 of the prisoners who escaped late Sunday had been convicted of sexual crimes and other violent offenses.

The prison in Mwenga, a territory about 130 kilometers (81 miles) south of Bukavu, was holding 42 inmates at the time.

Mwenga administrator Desire Masumbuko said security forces have captured four of the escaped prisoners. He called on residents to be cautious and to cooperate in the search for the remaining inmates.

Thousands of prisoners have staged successful escapes all over Congo since May, when Christian sect members stormed a prison in Kinshasa. Witnesses say thousands escaped.

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