Nearly 400 killed in Honduras prison fire
SEOUL - Agence France-Presse
At least 357 people died in the blaze that began late Feb 14 night in Honduras. REUTERS photoA massive fire swept through a prison in Honduras and killed at least 357 people, including many inmates trapped inside their cells, officials said on yesterday.
The attorney general’s office said at least 357 people died in the blaze that began late Feb. 14 night at the prison in Comayagua, about 75 kilometers north of the capital Tegucigalpa. It was one of the worst prison fires ever in Latin America, and local radio reports said many of the inmates were burned to death inside their cells. Comayagua fire department spokesman Josue Garcia said he saw “hellish” scenes while trying to put out the fire, with many prisoners “burned to death or suffocated in their cells.” He said “some 100 prisoners were burned to death or suffocated in their cells.” Garcia said many prisoners were trapped because the guard who had the key to their cells could not be located.
Soldiers, police and anxious relatives surrounded the Comayagua prison, which housed more than 800 inmates -- well above its capacity.
Local firemen said they were prevented from entering the prison due to gunshots. But Daniel Orellana, head of the prison system, said there was no riot. “We have two hypotheses, one is that a prisoner set fire to a mattress and the other one is that there was a short circuit in the electrical system,” he said.
Hector Ivan Mejia, spokesman for the security ministry, said it was feared that many other inmates escaped during the fire. Across the country the jails are filled double to their capacity. More than 100 prisoners were killed in a fire in the textile manufacturing town of San Pedro Sula several years ago. Latin American prisons are notoriously overcrowded, particularly in poor Central American states like Honduras.