Nearly 600 drug addicts escaped from a detoxification center in Hai Phong Sunday after a fight between two of them, officials said Monday.
Nguyen Dinh Hoa, head of the center, said 578 of the center's 826 addicts escaped Sunday evening. Police said they left in peace and have caused no damage to locals.
Around 134 patients had returned of their own will or had been brought back by their families by Monday afternoon, Vu Dinh Khang, director of Hai Phong Department of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs, told press agencies.
Some of the escapees are ex-convicts and some are HIV/AIDS sufferers.
They split up during the way to Hai Phong downtown and many were picked up by their friends who had heard about the break.
Duong Tu Trong, deputy director of Hai Phong police, said police couldn't force the patients back to the center.
"They still have rights. But if they break the law, we will deal with them immediately," Trong said.
"Hundreds of drug addicts breaking out of the center could cause chaos"¦ Those with criminal records will be forced to return if they don't come back voluntarily." he said.
Hoa said the breakout occurred after a clash between two patients Hoang Ngoc Duy, 36, and Bui Duc Tho, 66.
Then Nguyen Cong Dao, 28, another patient, told other inmates about Duy and Tho being punished as reason for them to leave.
The center housed mostly long-term inmates detained on government orders to follow a compulsory detoxification program.
Last month, after three days of being clean, 36 patients at another rehab center in Hai Phong staged a fight to escape.
According to government statistics Vietnam has more than 150,000 registered drug addicts, but some experts expect the real number to be much higher, AFP reported.