Quebec's Public Security Department says inmates have taken a female security guard hostage in the basement of a courthouse in a northern town.

Provincial police said Wednesday the hostage was taken Wednesday afternoon in Sept-Iles, about 650 kilometers (403 miles) northeast of Quebec City. Police say they cannot confirm how many convicts are involved.

The courthouse has a detention center in the basement. The building has been evacuated and police have erected a security perimeter nearby.

In 2013, CBC/Radio-Canada reported that the jail was outdated and had an overcrowding problem. A new jail in the remote town was supposed to be operational this spring but has not yet opened.