Waikeria Prison: Loud bangs heard as prison erupts into flame again

Waikeria Prison has burst back into flame again as the siege enters its fifth night.

Prisoners took over the 'top jail' on Tuesday, setting fire to buildings and ripping off shower doors to fight guards before making it onto the roof of the old jail.

The 750-bed capacity jail is now beyond repair with a third of the cells destroyed in the fire.

Sixteen prisoners remain on the roof in protest of what they claim are inhumane conditions and a lack of access to basic necessities.

While fires were dying down on Saturday morning, it now appears they have erupted again.

Witnesses reported hearing loud bangs on Saturday night, along with dogs, shouting and "sounds like something collapsing".

A new photo shows a major blaze underway at the prison, with "huge amounts" of smoke rising into the sky.

"There was a massive downpour just before we got here which appears to taken the sting off the fire but there is still one building well alight," a witness says.

Waikeria Prison: Loud bangs heard as prison erupts into flame again
Photo credit: Newshub

There are fears the days-long standoff will end with a violent confrontation. The Department of Corrections says several inmates assaulted one of their own who wanted to surrender. Corrections also says prisoners have been fashioning makeshift weapons and body armour.

"While the group state that they are protesting conditions at the prison and not rioting, their actions are clearly violent," Corrections incident controller Jeanette Burns said on Friday.

Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi said on Saturday he has been contacted by whānau of the inmates who claim they are "willing to surrender" but only if he is present "because they believe their safety will be compromised". 

"They don't trust the authorities and believe they will be harmed upon surrender. They have stated they will come out in body bags if I am not there to escort them out and ensure their safety. Remember this is a protest not a riot," he said.

National Party Corrections spokesperson Simeon Brown told Newshub Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis needs to intervene, but Davis says there's no chance he'll visit the prison until the prisoners come down and the issue is resolved. The inmates claim that won't happen until their complaints about the conditions are addressed.