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Fire During Prison Riot In Colombia Claims Lives Of More Than 51 Prisoners

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A fire during a prison riot in the southwestern Colombian city of Tulua, has claimed the lives of at least 51 prisoners. General Tito Castellanos, director of the INPEC prison agency and head of the national prisons’ agency, said on Tuesday that it was one of the worst incidents of recent prison violence in the country.

“It is a tragic and disastrous event,” General Tito Castellanos, director of the INPEC prison agency, told local Caracol Radio. “There was a situation, apparently a riot, the prisoners lit some mattresses and a conflagration occurred.”

“Unfortunately, the majority of the dead died because of smoke inhalation,” he told Caracol. “We have two (injured people) who have been sent to Cali. Right now, their diagnosis is with the doctors and we expect a report.” The General later confirmed that 49 people had died inside the overcrowded prison while two were killed while being taken to the hospital.

Speaking at a press conference, Colombian Justice Minister Wilson Ruiz said that at about 2 a.m. local time, a fight broke out among prisoners during which one inmate set fire to a mattress. As the brawl went on, the fire spread across the prison wing.

“The penitentiary personnel tried to take care of it themselves, but the flames were too strong and we had to wait for the arrival of the firefighters to control the situation,” Ruiz said. The incident resulted in injuries to more than 24 people, including prison guards.

The CNN quoted Ruiz who said that the prison is a middle-security penitentiary where inmates serve either minor sentences, or finish the last few months of their incarceration.

Prison riots and infighting among prison gangs is a regular occurrence in Colombia and neighbouring countries. In March 2020, Picota penitentiary in Bogota witnessed the death of 24 prisoners who were protesting coronavirus measures.

In 2019, 16 were decapitated and more than 50 killed in a Brazilian prison. A blaze in a jail in Venezuela claimed many lives in 2018.

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