Honduras Prison Fire Kills Hundreds

    Image #: 16925275    epa03106845 Relatives of inmates wait for news after a fire broke out at a prison in the town of Comayagua, Honduras, early 15 February 2012. At least 270 prisoners were killed. There were 820 inmates in the prison at the time, said police spokesman Hactor Ivan Mejia. He said 500 of them were reported to be safe. Dozens more were injured and admitted to hospitals, while the rest are believed to have fled.  EPA/GUSTAVO AMADOR /LANDOV

    Gustavo Amador, EPA / Landov

    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 should hold only 8,000. This is partially due to a 2009 coup. 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.

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