Vanuatu's justice minister says 12 inmates from Port Vila's high-risk prison attacked their two security guards in order to make their escape.
Charlot Salwai says the prisoners are thought to be on the loose somewhere in the north of the main island, Efate.
Police in the Vanuatu capital are warning people to stay home at night while the escapees are still at large.
There have been several escapes from the correctional centre dubbed Container City over the past year and Mr Salwai says there aren't enough guards.
"The budget actually can only allow for two. It is rotated. At night it is rotated. They can only rotate it on two."
Charlot Salwai says the Vanuatu government is still waiting for New Zealand to decide whether it will fund the building of a new prison.