A devastating fire ripped through a Honduran prison today killing at least 300 prisoners. Here is more from the Associated Press on what they are saying is one of the world’s deadliest fires in decades:
Some 475 people escaped from the prison in the town of Comayagua and 356 are missing and presumed dead, said Hector Ivan Mejia, a spokesman for the Honduras Security Ministry. He said 21 people had been injured.
Dozens were trapped behind bars as prison authorities tried to find the keys, officials said. Honduran authorities said the fire had been started by a prisoner who set his mattress ablaze in his cell.
Nobody knows what prompted the prisoner to start the fire but overcrowding and prison conditions have plagued the country for years.
Honduras’ overcrowded and dilapidated prisons have been hit by a string of deadly riots and fires in recent years. A 2004 prison fire killed more than 100 incarcerated gang members in a state prison north of the capital. A fire a year earlier at a nearby facility killed 70 gang members. In 1994, a fire sparked by an overheated refrigerator motor in an overcrowded Honduras prison killed 103 people.
Honduran authorities have repeatedly pledged to improve conditions but human rights groups say little has been done.
PRISON FELLOWSHIP INTERNATIONAL’S RESPONSE
Prison Fellowship International president, Ron W. Nikkel, has visited the Honduran prison and spoke with CNN earlier today about what he saw.
“It’s horrifically overcrowded. The bunks are sometimes five, six, seven tiers high, with the lowest person on the totem pole sleeping underneath the bunk on the bottom,” he told CNN from Washington.
“I’ve seldom been anywhere where I’ve seen such overcrowding. There have been a number of fires over the years and it’s surprising it hasn’t been worse or happened sooner than this.
“You wouldn’t have congestion like that in a dog pound, it’s so bad—and very little ventilation, so I can imagine a lot of the guys died from smoke inhalation.”
For more information on Prison Fellowship Internation, visit pfi.org.