Posted at 07:53 AM ET, 02/15/2012

Honduras prison fire was started by inmates during a mutiny, local news sites say

A fire at a prison in central Honduras has killed at least 300 people, the Associated Press reports.


An inmate is evacuated from the National Prison of Comayagua. (ORLANDO SIERRA - AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

The blaze is under control, but the total number of deaths remains unknown, a spokesman for the Comayagua, Honduras, fire department told AP. The cause of the fire is also under investigation, he said.

According to Honduran news sites, including El Heraldo, inmates at the Penitenciaria Nacional Comayagua started the fire during a mutiny. The fire department reportedly was not able to get the fire under control until 40 minutes after it began. Local news sites also report that the Comayagua fire department chief, Colonel Leonel Silva, died in the blaze.


Comayagua, shown with a pink pin, in central Honduras. (Google Maps)
Prison service head Daniel Orellana denied that a mutiny took place, the BBC reports. “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.

At least 35 prisoners were transported to a local hospital, with some who had more extensive burns taken to a hospital in the capital, Tegucigalpa, according to El Heraldo.

The fire affected five of the prison’s units, or more than half the prison, according to AP. An estimated 900 prisoners were held at Comayagua at the time of the fire, but the Honduran news site Hondudiario reports that the official capacity of the prison is just 400.

Overcrowding in prisons is an ongoing problem in Honduras, which has one the world’s highest murder rates. In 2011, San Pedro Sula, a city in northwest Honduras, was the world’s most violent place.

In video of the aftermath of the fire, broadcast on Honduran television, the relatives of Comayagua’s inmates are shown gathered around the prison, many of them screaming and crying:

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By  |  07:53 AM ET, 02/15/2012

Tags:  World, Honduras, Comayagua, prison, fire

 
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