A Kiwi detainee says people being "treated like animals" is what sparked the riots at the Christmas Island detention centre this morning.
It is understood riots began in the early hours of this morning (local time) after prisoners learned of the death of a refugee who escaped the centre two days ago.
Fires are burning, walls have been smashed in, the lights have been turned off and there are no guards in sight, detainees say.
Gas canisters have reportedly been unsuccessfully used in an attempt to quell the uproar.
The body of an asylum seeker, believed to be Iranian Kurdish Fazel Chegeni, was found on Sunday following his escape from the detention centre on Friday.
A New Zealand detainee, who the Herald has chosen not to name, said the riots kicked off after one person was allegedly assaulted by a guard when they asked about the body.
He said people at the centre were treated like animals, and they were sick of it.
"It was just a matter of time, all of us knew it. It was a matter of time because of the way they treat people...They're meant to be so called welfare carers. Duty of care is their number one policy and bringing service to us, but they treat us like dogs. We're treated like animals in here," he told NZME News Service.
"We're Kiwis, we're not bred for the psychological trauma. We're not bred to witness all of this. This is what war-torn country people [see], it's not for us."
He said the group of detainees and asylum seekers were now sitting in the middle of the field, waiting for what might happen next.
There were fears the guards would return with guns, he said.
"They're gone. We can't see them. They'll probably come back with heavy artillery. Everybody's scared, you know. Everybody's panicking," he said.
"We're sick of calling our mothers, our fathers, our daughters and listening to them cry. We're sick of having to answer their questions that we have no answers to because Immigration doesn't tell us anything.
"It's not right. We're getting punished three times for the one mistake we've made...Every month someone wants to take his own life [here]. Every month."
A spokesperson from the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection confirmed the situation was ongoing this morning.
"The Department can confirm a disturbance at Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre," the spokesperson said.
"The Department and its service providers are working together to resolve the situation."
The spokesperson said some reports of damage at the centre had been received but were yet to be confirmed.
The spokesperson said there had been no reports of injuries and any criminal offences would be referred to the police.
"The Department will not speculate on the motivations of those involved," the spokesperson said.
"It would not be appropriate to make further detailed comments on matters that are subject to ongoing operations."
Another detainee, New Zealander Ricky Downs, told TVNZ this morning the guards had "freaked out and left".
"There's fires everywhere, holes in the wall and the canteen has been smashed to pieces," he said.
Labour corrections spokesman Kelvin Davis said the situation "basically just went mad" after one detainee was allegedly assaulted by a guard.
Mr Davis visited the island about 10 days ago and is in contact with a number of detainees in the centre.
"The guards have disappeared at this stage, they can't see anything of them. There's concerns when they come back they'll come back with force possibly even with guns," he told NZME News Service.
"They've asked me to try and get people over there so that when all the dust has settled down there'll be witnesses to the injuries they believe they're going to incur. They're scared."
Mr Davis said the next step was to get officials over to Christmas Island to check on the New Zealand detainees.
It is believed there are about 40 Kiwis currently at the centre.
Mr Davis previously told the Herald that detainees were almost at "breaking point" and were considering rioting in late October.
"They said, 'To hell with it, if nobody's going to listen.' Basically, there's a sense of hopelessness, despair and uncertainty. There's no sentence, there's no end date for them," he told the Herald.
A law change in Australia means foreign nationals automatically have their visas revoked if they have convictions with penalties totalling more than 12 months in prison.
The Herald reported in October about 1000 people are expected to be deported back to New Zealand under the policy and about 240 are in detention centres awaiting deportation or for their appeals to be heard.
Amnesty International is calling for the New Zealand Government to speak out against Australia's "abysmal human rights record", in light of the riot.
Australia is about to undergo its Universal Periodic Review - an analysis of each UN member country's human rights record every four years - which makes the timing even more fitting, Amnesty International New Zealand spokeswoman Meg de Ronde said.
"Australia has an appalling track record for its policies around asylum seekers, and current news reports on the incidents at the detention centre on Christmas Island are not only deeply concerning, but are a prime example of why New Zealand can no longer stay silent on Australia's refugee and asylum seeker policies," she said.
New Zealand should push Australia to take all children, families and traumatised people out of detention centres and put an end to indefinite periods of detention, she said.
The calls come after Amnesty International supporters gathered outside the Australian Consulate in Auckland on October 30 to protest an incident in May where Australian officials turned around a boat with asylum seekers apparently attempting to get to New Zealand.