Riot at Bali's Kerobokan prison

Police with assault rifles outside the jail. Photo: Erwin Jo
Police with assault rifles outside the jail. Photo: Erwin Jo

Police have reclaimed control of Bali’s infamous Kerobokan prison, which last night erupted into rioting as prisoners set fire to parts of the desperately overcrowded facility and hurled stones at staff.

Hundreds of riot police, some from the elite paramilitary wing, gathered shortly before dawn around the perimeter of the grounds and moved in as the sun rose, apparently first firing warning shots into the air.

At least three people were injured and removed by ambulances, with rumours suggesting police used rubber bullets to subdue the rioters.

Fairfax understands that all 12 Australian prisoners in Kerobokan, including Schapelle Corby and the Bali Nine, were unhurt during the riot and subsequent police action.

A local source said they male "foreigners" had been kept safe in the prison's tower, while the women's prison was untouched by the riot.

The prison is now under the control of the police, and in lock-down, while prison officials and staff are yet to make an official statement.

Reporter and witness Amilia Rosa said staff and police were now taking a head count of the more than 1000 prisoners crammed into the facility, which was designed to house just over 300.

They are checking the extent of the fire damage to property and records.

Prison staff last night abandoned the prison after the riots broke out. It remains unclear whether the Australians were involved in the riot.

Earlier, Ms Rosa said the shots appeared to come from the sides and back of the prison as authorities waited outside the grounds.

The riot began about 11pm last night and may be related to a smaller incident on Sunday afternoon, which flared after one inmate was stabbed and three others arrested.

By 5.15am local time, a contingent was massing in front of the facility, apparently in preparation for an assault to try to take back the prison from the rioters.

Paramilitary police from Indonesia's highly trained "brigadier mobile" unit were among the police and prison guards massing outside the yard. The police were carrying AK-47 rifles and what appeared to be tear-gas guns.

Ms Rosa said firefighters had battled to control blazes inside the prison, with furniture, equipment and window frames burnt.

Ms Rosa said she had overheard police discussing storming the prison after the sun rose.

Ms Rosa said that, as the sky began to lighten, she could see police wearing bullet-proof vests and helmets, and carrying shields, machine guns, batons and tear-gas guns.

"Consular staff are liaising with local authorities and seeking to contact the Australians," a spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said earlier today.

Michael Chan, the brother of Bali Nine member Andrew Chan, told Fairfax he was very worried about his brother's welfare inside the prison, but had been unable to contact him.

He said that, after a similar riot about four months ago, "things got pretty bad, and they were in lockdown for a couple of days".

This incident looked to be at least on that scale, he said. Mr Chan will fly out to Bali this afternoon on a planned trip to see his brother.

Consular officials told Schapelle Corby’s sister Mercedes - who lives in Bali with her husband Wayan - that the convicted drug trafficker is well and healthy.

Wayan told Fairfax that he had been at the prison during the night and that the women's block, where Corby and Bali Nine member Renae Lawrence are housed, had been untouched by the rioting.

"I am cautiously hopeful that things will be OK," Mercedes Corby told Fairfax.

However, after unrest such as this, the family expected the prison to go into lock-down, which meant no visits from outside.