Honduras prison fire kills more than 350 inmates
A fire gutted an overcrowded jail in Honduras, killing more than 350 people, officials said Wednesday, as rescue teams found the charred bodies of inmates trapped in their cells by the blaze.
Survivors described wrenching scenes of prisoners pleading for help as they were engulfed by choking smoke and flames, some unable to flee because they were still shackled to the bars of their cells in what is the world's worst prison fire in a decade.
Those who were able "tried to save themselves by hurling themselves into the shower, sinks" and any other source of water they could find, one survivor said after the inferno in the prison in the central Honduran city of Comayagua.
Some inmates escaped by jumping from the prison rooftop, and there were reports that others fled the crowded facility and were on the loose.
Those who died were killed mostly by smoke inhalation.
"More than 350 dead, it is an approximation. We cannot rule out that it could be a bit higher, but we are checking so we can give an official and precise toll for this tragedy," Security Minister Pompeyo Bonilla told reporters at the prison.
The enormity of the disaster led President Porfirio Lobo to suspend Honduras's top prison officials, including the corrections chief, as well as those at the Comayagua penitentiary while an investigation is under way.