Thursday, February 16, 2012

Dead Toll Expected To Reach 400 In Horrific Blaze At Honduras Prison

Photo: Reuters

Honduran authorities continue to investigate what caused deadly blaze that claimed almost 400 inmate lives. Some of them were held without charges and have not been convicted.

By H. Nelson Goodson
February 16, 2012

Comayagua, Honduras - On Thursday, Security Minister Pompeyo Bonilla said, that the dead toll could be higher than reported earlier during a blaze on Wednesday at the Comayagua Prison. Forensic investigators are estimating that the dead toll could be more than 400 inmates, according to Bonilla.
Authorities suspect that the cause of the fire was contributed to an electrical short circuit or an inmate might have started the blaze inside the prison around 10:50 p.m. The fire began in cell block 6 and most of the fire was contained in cell blocks, 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10.
Most of the inmates reported killed succumed to smoke, others were trapped in locked cells and weren't able to escape the blaze. Some of the inmates could be heard screaming from pain while being burned alive, while others were able to break through a roof and escaped the blaze.
Several surviving inmates told authorities, that a mattress was set on fire inside cell block 6 and fire spread quickly. Prison officials are also following reports that some of the inmates had escaped during the chaos.
It took firefighters four hours to control the fire.
The prison had more than 853 inmates at the time of the fire and had a capacity for 250. About 475 inmates were accounted for, 21 others were reported injured and were transported to several nearby hospitals for treatment. At least 356 inmates were reported killed, according to prison officials. But, other reports state that 900 inmates were being held at the prison.
Hundreds of family members gathered outside the prison to try and get information about their relatives being held and serving time at the prison.
An estimated 60% of those held at the prison had not been charged or convicted of a crime. They were being held under an antigang law initiative, which allowed police to detain men and women without charging them for exhibiting tattoos believed to be gang related.

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