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Honduras Says Deadly Prison Fire Started By Cigarette

A woman is taken away by police after fainting during clashes when relatives of inmates killed during last week's prison fire stormed the restricted area of the morgue in Tegucigalpa, Honduras on Monday.
Estbean Felix

Honduran officials said last week's prison fire that killed 360 was started by accident, when an inmate fell asleep with a lit cigarette. Previous reports in local media had pinned the blame on a prison riot and there had also been reports that inmates were shot at by guards.

The BBC reports that chief prosecutor Luis Alberto Rubi said autopsies of 277 inmates showed no evidence of gunshot wounds and that gasoline did not start the fire.

The BBC adds:

"He said investigators had been told by witnesses that a prisoner fell asleep while smoking. Mr. Rubi said experts from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives supported the accident theory.

"The US embassy in Honduras said American officials would not comment on current investigations.

"The death toll rose to 360 on Tuesday with the death of another prisoner. Firefighters called to the blaze said they could not get the prisoners out because they could not find guards who had the keys to the cells."

NPR's Jason Beaubien reports that on Monday, a mob made up mostly of women broke into a morgue in Tegucigalpa and started pulling corpses out of refrigerated trucks.

"The women say they were searching for loved ones who died in the prison blaze and they added that officials won't say when the bodies will be returned to them for burial," Jason reported for our Newscast unit.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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