Monday, Apr 07, 2003
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The uprising began with a fist fight between members of two rival street gangs last evening and escalated when other gang members set fire to mattresses and furniture in their cells at the 1,600-inmate El Porvenir prison in La Ceiba, a port city 352km north of Tegucigalpa, the capital.
Prison spokesman, Leonel Sauceda, said the flames engulfed part of the prison building and that 86 people were burned to death, died of smoke inhalation or were killed by inmates wielding homemade weapons.
Jose Cahuati, the director of a nearby state hospital that was receiving the dead and wounded, said his staff counted 86 bodies and was scrambling to treat dozens of injured inmates.
Local television images showed hospital employees covering rows of bodies with plastic bags. Col. Mario Corea, a spokesman for military officials in the area, said some prison officials were hurt in the uprising but that the exact number of those injured remained unclear.
The riot began after members of the Mara Salvatrucha street gang clashed with those loyal to another youth gang, La 18. The two groups are the largest and most-violent of the 450 Honduran gangs that authorities believe have around 100,000 members between the ages of 8 and 35.
Jose Coca Villanueva, a spokesman for the El Porvenir inmates, said a major ``territorial battle'' sparked the riot.
Of the 86 people who died, some were burned to death, others suffered smoke inhalation and the rest were killed by inmates wielding weapons.
El Porvenir is a prison farm located close to the Caribbean coast where suspects facing drugs, weapons, rape and assault charges are held while they await trial. Inmates grow beans and other grains, and there is little security. AP
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