: Inmates-who-survived-the-Comayagua-prison-fire-in-Honduras

Honduran President Porfirio Lobo has suspended the director of the Comayagua prison and the head of the national prison system after a fire at an overcrowded prison killed more than 350 people.

Porfirio Lobo said the suspensions would ensure a thorough investigation and promised to “take urgent measures to deal with this tragedy, which has plunged all Hondurans into mourning”.

Justice Richard Ordonez, a Supreme Court judge who is leading the investigation, said officials had confirmed 358 people died in the fire.

The blaze began late on Tuesday night at the prison in Comayagua, about 75 km north of the capital Tegucigalpa. Ordonez said with 856 inmates, the prison was populated to double its capacity.

Paola Castro, the local governor and a former prison employee, told reporters on Wednesday that an inmate called her moments before the fire and said he was going to set the facility on fire and kill everyone inside.

Survivors told investigators that an unidentified inmate screamed “We will all die here!” as he lit fire to his bedding.

Al Jazeera’s Andy Gallacher in Comayagua said that there were several theories regarding how the fire started. “Some say that a prisoner started it and other that it was started externally, but I can tell you that there are scenes of chaos here.

“Forensic experts here say that it will be two or three days before they can start identifying the bodies that are badly burned,” our correspondent said.

The blaze spread within minutes, killing about 100 inmates in their cells as firefighters struggled to find officials who had keys, Josue Garcia, a Comayagua fire department spokesman, said.

Others prisoners were set free by guards but died from the flames or smoke inhalation as they tried to flee into the fields surrounding the facility, where prisoners convicted of crimes grow corn and beans on a state-run farm.

Rescuers carried shirtless, semi-conscious prisoners from the facility by their arms and legs. One hauled a victim away from the fire by piggyback.

Officials have long had little control of conditions inside many Honduran prisons, where inmates have largely unfettered access to mobile phones and other contraband.

There are frequent riots and clashes between members of rival street gangs in its overcrowded prisons. Across Honduras, prisons are filled to double their capacity. The facility in Comayagua housed more than 800 inmates – well above its capacity.

More than 100 prisoners were killed in a fire in the textile manufacturing town of San Pedro Sula several years ago.

-Aljazeera

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