Witnesses in Central African Republic's volatile capital say more than 500 prisoners have escaped amid the worst unrest in nearly a year.

The jailbreak at Ngaragba took place late Monday, according to people who saw the men fleeing and spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. The escape also was confirmed by head clerk Thierry Ngoalessio at Bangui's court.

The development marks the latest downward spiral into near-anarchy. Earlier in the day, armed militias fighters looted from the offices of international aid organizations.

Central African Republic has been highly volatile for nearly two years when unprecedented violence erupted. The arrival of a U.N. peacekeeping mission had brought some stability, which has been all but shattered in recent days.

At least 42 deaths have been reported in recent days.