Honduras Prison Fire Kills Hundreds of Inmates

Update: Conditions at the Honduran prison.

More than 350 inmates at the Comayagua Prison Farm, 45 miles north of the Honduras capital Tegucigalpa, have been trapped and killed in a fire. At least 300 inmates are still missing and presumed dead. Around 475 inmates were able to get out. It is the largest and worst prison fire in Latin American history.

Danilo Orellana, director of the Honduras prison system, told The Associated Press inmates said the fired was started by an inmate who lit his mattress on fire. He said another theory is there was an electrical short. He ruled out claims that a prison riot was to blame. [More...]

One of the dead was a woman visitor staying overnight. The fire chief may have died in the blaze.

Worried and angry relatives surrounded the prison on Wednesday morning with some throwing rocks at police and trying to force their way into the prison. Police responded by firing shots into the air and tear gas at the protesters, who were mostly women.

The over-crowded prison housed 850 inmates.

Across Honduras, prisons are filled to double their capacity with about 12,500 prisoners in jails meant to hold 6,000.

One reason so many were trapped, according to the Fire Department spokesman:

We couldn’t get them out because we didn’t have the keys and couldn’t find the guards who had them,”

Check out the BBC photos, including the offical reading the names of those who survived to relatives outside the prison and the forensic team dressed and masked, ready to enter and retrieve bodies. Here's a photo of the scene outside the prison.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Where the eff was the warden? (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Edger on Wed Feb 15, 2012 at 11:33:36 AM EST
    Christ. Normally when there is a fire the first thing you do is evacuate the building, right?

    Maybe... (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by ScottW714 on Wed Feb 15, 2012 at 11:46:27 AM EST
    ...he fell into a lifeboat.

    Sounds like people burned alive that could have been saved.  And I don't care what they have done, no one deserves to be burned alive, makes me shutter at the thought.


    Warning shots into the air (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by sj on Wed Feb 15, 2012 at 01:32:45 PM EST
    Did they consider that those bullets come back down?   My niece had a hole in the top of her car which police said was likely from a New Year's Eve shot into the air.

    No, no, no... (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by Edger on Wed Feb 15, 2012 at 04:48:31 PM EST
    They just vanish into orbit and float away into space. Just like all carbon emissions and other crap pumped into the air.



    no? ;-) (none / 0) (#11)
    by Edger on Thu Feb 16, 2012 at 04:26:18 AM EST
    I don't know what would be worse- (none / 0) (#3)
    by ruffian on Wed Feb 15, 2012 at 12:08:33 PM EST
    learning that the guards with the keys died in the fire too, or that they fled without a thought of releasing the prisoners first.

    3 fatal prison fires in Honduras in the last 3 year? Ugh.

    Well, it IS a poor Central American country.. (none / 0) (#4)
    by jondee on Wed Feb 15, 2012 at 12:21:43 PM EST
    Maybe it was part of a U.S govt. sponsored fire safety experiment..

    Maybe it's just because (none / 0) (#5)
    by sj on Wed Feb 15, 2012 at 01:26:11 PM EST
    I'm not feeling well, but this comment left a bad taste in my mouth.

    it's called irony (none / 0) (#7)
    by jondee on Wed Feb 15, 2012 at 01:50:37 PM EST
    I know (none / 0) (#8)
    by sj on Wed Feb 15, 2012 at 02:34:25 PM EST
    But like I said, I don't feel well and it struck me badly.

    jondee, I will try the olive oil, thanks.

    Oh, this is bad... (none / 0) (#12)
    by Edger on Thu Feb 16, 2012 at 06:58:25 PM EST
    USA Today reports that...

    COMAYAGUA, Honduras (AP) - The prisoners whose scorched bodies were carried out piece by piece Thursday morning from a charred Honduran prison had been locked inside an overcrowded penitentiary where most inmates had never been charged, let alone convicted, according to an internal Honduran government report obtained by the Associated Press.

    The Honduran government report, which was sent to the United Nations this month, said 57% of some 800 inmates of the Comayagua farm prison north of the Central American country's capital were either awaiting trial or being held as suspected gang members.

    A fire that witnesses said was started by an inmate tore through the prison Tuesday night, burning and suffocating screaming men in their locked cells as rescuers desperately searched for keys. Officials confirmed 358 dead, making it the world's deadliest prison fire in a century.
    Survivors told horrific tales of climbing walls to break the sheet metal roofing and escape, only to see prisoners in other cell blocks being burned alive. Inmates were found stuck to the roofing, their bodies fused to the metal.

    From the time firefighters received a call at 10:59 p.m. local time, the rescue was marred by human error and conditions that made the prison ripe for catastrophe.

    According to the report, obtained exclusively by the AP, on any given day there were about 800 inmates in a facility built for 500. There were only 51 guards by day and just 12 at night.

    On the night of the fire, only six guards were on duty...
    Bodies were found piled up in the bathrooms, where inmates apparently fled to the showers, hoping the water would save them from blistering flames. Prisoners perished clutching each other in bathtubs and curled up in laundry sinks.

    "It was something horrible," said survivor Eladio Chica, 40, as he was led away by police Wednesday night, handcuffed, to testify before a local court about what he saw. "I only saw flames, and when we got out, men were being burned, up against the bars, they were stuck to them."

    I think I'll puke now...