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PHOTOS: Prison fire kills over 350 inmates in Honduras

Last updated on: February 16, 2012 09:25 IST

PHOTOS: Prison fire kills over 350 inmates in Honduras

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In one of the world's worst incidents of prison fire, a massive blaze swept through an overcrowded jail in Honduras, killing at least 350 inmates and leaving officials struggling to quell growing public outrage at the treatment of victims and their families, reports stated.

Police said 100 of the 853 inhabitants of Comayagua prison, 75 miles north of the capital Tegucigalpa, were still unaccounted for and 357 had been confirmed dead after the blaze, which began late on Tuesday night and lasted for about an hour.

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Image: An inmate reacts while standing next to another inmate and a police officer outside the prison in Comayagua where a massive fire swept through an overcrowded prison in Honduras and killed more than 350 inmates
Photographs: Reuters

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Many victims were trapped in their cells and either burned or suffocated. "We heard screaming from the people who caught fire," said one survivor. "We had to push up roof panels to get out," a survivor told The Independent.

Relatives of inmates besieged the scene Wednesday morning. But with most corpses burned beyond recognition and hospitals overflowing with survivors, they struggled to get information about the whereabouts of loved ones.


Image: Soldiers stand outside a jail in Comayagua where a massive fire raged through the overcrowded prison in Honduras, killing more than 350 inmates
Photographs: Reuters

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Hector Meija, a police chief, read out the names of 457 survivors, but that was not enough to prevent frustrations from overflowing. At one point, the crowd outside the perimeter fence threw rocks at riot police. Officers fired shots into the air and released tear gas, The Independent reported.

The cause of the fire remains unconfirmed, though investigators said they believed it resulted either from an electrical fault, or arson. "We have two hypotheses," said Daniel Orellana, the head of the prison system said.



Image: A man injured in the fire is carried by medical personnel in Comayagua
Photographs: Reuters
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Orellana denied reports that the fire broke out during a riot. However, some news outlets claimed emergency crews attempting to tackle the blaze were initially forced to withdraw after shots were fired at them, reports indicated.


Image: Women cry while standing outside the prison in Comayagua
Photographs: Reuters
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Honduras President Porfirio Lobo promised a "full and transparent" investigation into what he called a "lamentable and unacceptable" tragedy.

Local and national prison authorities are to be suspended until it is concluded.


Image: Soldiers stand near body bags bearing dead inmates at a jail in Comayagua
Photographs: Reuters

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