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Last Updated: Monday, 17 May, 2004, 23:54 GMT 00:54 UK
Blaze at Honduran jail kills 100
A guard at the Honduran prison
Built to hold 800 inmates, the jail held at least 2,200, reports say
A fire at a prison in the north of Honduras has killed at least 100 inmates, according to authorities.

Another 27 were injured in the blaze which broke out before dawn at the prison in the city of San Pedro Sula.

Police say the devastating fire is believed to have been caused by an electrical short circuit.

"Everything burned," one prisoner told a local radio station from his hospital bed, describing how they woke up to find the fire all around them.


"Everything happened fast while we were sleeping. We woke up when our clothes and our beds were in flames," Jose Mauricio Lopez said.

Some of those injured have severe burns.

The fire consumed a cell block housing 186 members of the "Mara Salvatrucha" - one of the most violent of Central America's gangs.

Many of them had been arrested over the past year as the Honduran authorities stepped up their fight against the notorious youth gangs, rounding up hundreds of suspects on charges of violence, robbery and drug-related offences.

One of the surviving prisoners alleged that guards shot at them from outside the cell block to stop them from leaving, despite their cries for help.

A prison spokesman said many of the gang members started to attack the firefighters when they arrived, which prompted guards to fire in the air to prevent their escape.


The jail was built to hold 800 inmates but had at least 2,200 people inside, Deputy Security Minister Armando Calidonio said.

File photo from 2001 of gang members in a Honduran jail
Riots often break out in the crowded jails

"This is a horrible tragedy," San Pedro Sula's Auxiliary Bishop Monsignor Romulo Emiliani said when he arrived at the prison.

"And the situation is worse because there are too many people in a single cell...This shouldn't happen."

There are frequent riots and fires in Honduras' overcrowded jails.

Last year, an uprising at the El Porvenir prison near the Caribbean port of La Ceiba left 69 people dead.

President Ricardo Maduro announced from Rome that he would cut short a European visit to deal with the latest tragedy.

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Country profile: Honduras
23 Oct 03  |  Country profiles
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03 Jan 04  |  Country profiles


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