359 inmates died in Honduras prison fire

Updated: 2012-02-16 11:21


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COMAYAGUA - A massive fire raged through an overcrowded prison in Honduras, killing more than 350 inmates, many of them trapped and screaming inside their cells.

It was one of the world's worst prison fires and was apparently started by one of the inmates late on Tuesday night at the jail in Comayagua, about 75 km (45 miles) north of the capital Tegucigalpa.

By the end of it, 359 people were dead, said Danelia Ferrera, a senior official at the attorney general's office.

359 inmates died in Honduras prison fire

A woman walks near police officers who have taken cover after family members tried to break into the prison in Comayagua February 15, 2012.[Photo/Agencies]

"It's a terrible scene ... Our staff went into the cells and the bodies are charred, most of them are unrecognizable," Ferrera told Reuters, adding officials would have to use dental records and DNA in many cases to identify those killed.

A convict was suspected of starting the blaze, said the governor of Comayagua province, Paola Castro.

"One inmate got in touch with me just after 11 pm to say another inmate had set fire to the prison in block number 6, presumably by setting fire to a mattress," she said, noting she had met the prisoner during her social work at the prison.

Jails are stuffed full of convicts in Honduras, which is ravaged by violent street gangs, brutal drug traffickers and rampant poverty. According to the United Nations, the country has the highest murder rate in the world.

359 inmates died in Honduras prison fire

Women cry while standing outside the prison in Comayagua February 15, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]

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