On Saturday morning, locals reported that only a few buildings were still standing and most of the facility had been razed by fire.
Overnight about 60 detainees were arrested and taken to the Nauru prison after riots broke out at the centre on Friday.
Early reports that a police officer had been stabbed appear to have been false.
A Department of Immigration spokeswoman said all the asylum seekers who escaped had been returned to the centre, and all staff had been accounted for.
A witness on Nauru who asked not to be named said the riot was sparked by false rumours that the Manus Island centre had been closed. The rumours emerged before Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s announcement on Friday afternoon that all asylum seekers heading to Australia by boat would now be sent to Papua New Guinea for processing and resettlement.
“At the moment, most parts of the island are on lockdown,” the source said on Friday.
“The detention centre is on fire. The mess, the accommodation area, the kitchen and the newly built recreation area have been set on fire.
“The detainees have been pelting the police and security guards with rocks and sticks. There have been at least five explosions, reportedly from cars set on fire.
“Reportedly, one police officer has been stabbed and is being held by the detainees. Hundreds of local Nauruans have rushed to the detention centre to help the police. At least a dozen detainees have been injured, many rushed to the hospital.”
Another source said there was considerable anger in the Nauru government and among immigration officials no warning was given ahead of Mr Rudd’s announcement asylum seekers would “never” be settled in Australia.
Food stocks are also believed to have been destroyed at the camp.
The riots began at 3pm, when asylum seekers staged a protest. Authorities evacuated the centre at 4pm, according to local reports. It is understood most of those involved are Sri Lankan Tamils.
According to a written order obtained by Fairfax Media, Nauru’s acting Police Minister, David Adeang, has deputised a new “Nauru Police Force Reserve” to respond to the riots.
The force includes contractors from Australian company Transfield as well as “all others deputised to respond”.
On Friday women and children on Nauru were instructed by the government to lock their doors and stay inside until further notice. All men have been told to present to the centre to be deputised as security guards.
Up to 1000 men are estimated to have responded to the call for deputies distributed via text message on the island’s mobile phone network.
Police now have the extra challenge to control these men, “baying for blood”, as one islander put it.
At 7pm, Nauru man Clint Deidenang reported that the situation had calmed. But another source on the island said many detainees remained at large on Friday night.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Immigration said: “The situation is tense and efforts will be continued to restore order to the facility.”
She confirmed the centre had suffered property damage and said there were reports staff and “transferees” had been injured.
And she warned the riots would not help asylum seekers’ cause. “Such non-compliant behaviour is unacceptable and people should be aware that this kind of activity can affect their visa applications.”
Another source in Nauru said: “all adult Nauruans can now just go to the police station and gain law enforcement powers, effective immediately. hundreds have already done so. calling it martial law would be exaggerating it but the new regime is the Nauruan equivalent to martial law.”
There were no reported issues on Manus Island.( Canberra Times)