At least 49 inmates were killed and 30 others injured on Tuesday in a fire that followed an attempted escape from the Tolua prison in southwest Colombia, authorities said.
General Tito Castellanos, director of the Colombian Prisons Administration (Inpec), explained that the tragedy occurred in a ward of this city’s prison when the handcuffed detainees apparently tried to escape.
“Unfortunately, a mutiny took place in ward No. 8 of Toloa prison, where 1,267 prisoners are being held, with the unfortunate result of which 49 people were killed,” the general told W Radio.
According to the official, the prisoners died in a fire they themselves caused.
The general added that thirty others were “wounded and affected by the fire and smoke,” without giving any indication of the escape of prisoners.
Authorities said they had several hypotheses, ranging from an “escape attempt” to unrest that caused a “cover-up of some situations”.
The site affected by the fire housed 180 detainees, who set their mattresses on fire to prevent police entry.
The latter used fire extinguishers to put out the flames and help the prisoners out. “Otherwise, the results would have been worse,” General Castellanos said.
He added that some law enforcement officials were injured while helping prisoners out of the ward.
Outgoing President Ivan Duque confirmed the tragedy without giving an assessment. I have been instructed to proceed with research that will shed light on this terrible situation. “My solidarity with the families of the victims,” he said on Twitter.
Colombia’s prison system is currently responsible for 97,426 inmates, with an overcrowding of 16,251 or 20%, according to Inpec.
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