Most victims in Honduras awaited trial
COMAYAGUAThe prisoners whose scorched bodies were carried out piece by piece yesterday morning from a charred Honduran prison had been locked inside an overcrowded penitentiary where most inmates had never been charged, let alone convicted, according to an internal Honduran government report obtained by the Associated Press.
More than half of the 856 inmates of the Comayagua farm prison north of the Central American country’s capital were either awaiting trial or being held as suspected gang members, according to a report sent by the Honduran government this month to the United Nations.
A fire started by an inmate tore through the prison Feb. 14 night, burning and suffocating screaming men in their locked cells as rescuers desperately searched for keys. Officials confirmed 358 dead, making it the world’s deadliest prison fire in a century. Survivors told horrific tales of climbing walls to break the sheet metal roofing and escape, only to see prisoners in other cell blocks being burned alive. Inmates were found stuck to the roofing, their bodies fused to the metal.
The enormity of the disaster led President Porfirio Lobo to suspend Honduras’s top prison officials, including the corrections chief, as well as those at the Comayagua penitentiary while an investigation is under way.