The Corrections Service in Papua New Guinea has confirmed five inmates were shot dead as prison officers tried to prevent a breakout from Baisu jail outside Mt Hagen on Friday.
It says another seven prisoners were seriously injured, while 37 dangerous prisoners remain at large.
Corrections operations officer Rueben Manamb says the Corrections Commissioner will determine whether it was illegal for the prison officers to shoot when he has received a report about the escape.
"It's a regulation that prison officers shot at them in the air to tell them to stop escaping, running away. If they don't respond then they try to stop them running away from the prison. That's when they try to hit their leg or to injure them."
Rueben Manamb says a report in The National newspaper that the prisoners were escaping because they had been denied transfers, despite a suspected disease outbreak at the jail has yet to be confirmed.