14 dead in Honduran prison fire amid inmate riot

By Alberto Arce

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, March 29 2012 3:49 p.m. MDT

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — At least 14 people died during an uprising by armed inmates at a Honduran prison Thursday, one of them decapitated and the others killed by a fire started by the rioters, authorities said.

The unrest came six weeks after a fire at another prison in Honduras killed 361 inmates. A fire official said the toll from the latest blaze could rise.

Yair Mesa, police commissioner of the rough northern city of San Pedro Sula, said Thursday's riot had been brought under control.

"The uprising has been put down without the need to fire shots," Mesa said by telephone from inside the prison.

He said most of the victims apparently died of burns or asphyxiation, but said the cause of death could not immediately be determined because the bodies were so badly burned. One prisoner's head was cut off and tossed outside the prison during the riot.

Inmates carried the burned bodies from the site of the blaze and set them out in the prison yard.

National fire chief Alfonso Medina warned that the death toll could increase, saying one part of the prison was still under control of inmates who might have grenades and not been searched by security officers. He said there could be as many as six more victims, although he didn't give details on how that number was reached.

City fire chief Jose Danilo Flores said the prisoners themselves appeared to have fought the fire inside the facility. He said the armed inmates initially kept firefighters from entering.

San Pedro Sula is believed to be one of the most dangerous cities in a country that has the highest homicide rate in the world. A fire at the San Pedro Sula prison in 2004 killed 107 inmates.

Thursday's uprising came a month and a half after Honduras' overcrowded prisons were hit by the worst prison fire in a century — a Feb. 14 conflagration at the Comayagua farm prison that killed 361 inmates.

In 2008, the latest year for which figures are available, Honduras' prison system had nearly 38 percent more prisoners than it was built to house, according to the London-based International Centre for Prison Studies.

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