Chinese state media say three inmates escaped in a rare jailbreak in China's northeast after killing a guard.

The website of the Communist Party's People's Daily newspaper says the incident at Yanshou county jail outside the city of Harbin took place about 6 a.m. Tuesday (2200 GMT Monday). It says police are searching for the fugitives with armed patrols. The men were awaiting trial, but the report did not say on what charges.

The report says the three were wearing police jackets and shirts, but gave no other details. A guard who answered the jail's phone said he was not permitted to answer questions, and calls to the county's Communist Party propaganda office rang unanswered.

Chinese jails and prisons are run along strict lines and escapes are extremely rare.