272 die in Honduran prison fire

At least 272 people killed in a prison fire in central Honduras

COMAYAGUA, Honduras | February 15, 2012

At least 272 people were killed in a prison fire in Comayagua in central Honduras, a local fire department official said Wednesday.

Jose Turcios, a spokesman for the Comayagua fire department, said firefighters brought the blaze under control, but the exact number of fatalities was unknown, CNN reported. The fire broke out Tuesday night.

One survivor, an inmate who said his name was Alex, told Honduran media he didn't know how the fire started, but that he and other prisoners and were awakened by other prisoners' screams.

"Everyone ran for their lives," Alex said, adding that prisoners fled the facility any way possible.

At least 35 prisoners were transported to a local hospital, Turcios said, and some were then transported to a hospital in the capital city of Tegucigalpa.

The fire damaged five of the prison's units, Turcios said. The extent of the damage was not reported.

The prison holds 851 inmates.

The country's prison commissioner said investigators were looking into whether the fire was caused by a short circuit or if a prisoner possibly set a mattress afire.

Several Honduran media outlets reported the inmates were protesting living conditions when the fire broke out.

The fire was the third fatal prison fire in Honduras in recent years, CNN said. In 2003, 61 prisoners were killed in a fire at a prison in La Ceiba. In 2004, a fire in a San Pedro Sula prison killed 107.

In April, the U.S. State Department published a report critical of conditions in the two dozen prisons in Honduras.

2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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