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Hundreds of Japanese police on manhunt for escaped thief

AP  |  Tokyo 

Hundreds of searched today for a convicted who escaped from prison and was believed to be on a small island with abundant hide-outs about 1,000 houses made vacant by an aging and shrinking population.

Tatsuma Hirao, 27, has been at large since Sunday, when he fled from a low-security prison in prefecture while serving a 5 year sentence for theft. Police suspect he drove a stolen car along a 70-kilometer bridge and highway system connecting several islands near and got off on the island of Mukaishima, near Hiroshima, which has a population of about 16,000.

TV reports showed police visiting every home and searching empty houses and huts. Vehicles were stopped at checkpoints, causing rare traffic jams on the usually quiet island.

Several cases of theft have been reported to police since the jailbreak, and Hirano's fingerprints have been detected. The car which police believe he used for his getaway was found on the island.

Police released Hirao's photo and asked for help finding him, while urging residents to be cautious and lock their homes and vehicles. Police also used drones and sniffer dogs.

As the search continued, residents have felt increasingly uneasy, and parents began escorting their children to school, said.

Hirao was arrested in 2013 after robbing barbershops in and other cities on in southern Japan, according to local reports. It wasn't clear why he targeted barbers.

has a relatively low crime rate, and prison escapes are rare. Its population is declining and the average age is rising quickly.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, April 12 2018. 18:05 IST