02.16.12 4:33 AM ET
Honduras Prison Fire Kills Hundreds (PHOTOS)
In one of the largest mass deaths in a prison in decades, 357 died Tuesday night after a fire tore through a penitentiary in Honduras. While officials say there was a short circuit of the electrical system, there are rumors that an inmate set fire to his mattress, starting the blaze which lasted 40 minutes. Nearly 100 inmates fled after being rescued. Most of the victims choked to death in their cells. Many bodies are destroyed, making the identification process hard. Honduras, which has the highest murder rate in the world, is suffering from overcrowding in prisons (in 2010 the government ordered a state of emergency), with 13,000 inmates housed in 24 institutions that—which should only hold 8,000. This is partially due to a 2009 coup. Honduras President Porfirio Lobo has suspended the director of the prison and the head of the national prison system, and ordered an investigation into the incident.