A massive fire swept through an overcrowded prison in Honduras and killed more than 350 inmates, including many trapped inside their cells, officials said on Wednesday.
The Associated Press reported that at least 357 people died in the prison fire that began late on Tuesday night at the facility in Comayagua, about 45 miles north of the capital Tegucigalpa.
“We couldn’t get them out because we didn’t have the keys and couldn’t find the guards who had them,” Comayagua fire department spokesman Josue Garcia told reporters in a press conference following the blaze.
Honduran officials say the prison held about 800 inmates and was destroyed by the blaze.
As for the cause of the fire, officials are investigating whether it was triggered by prisoners or by an electrical short-circuit, said Danilo Orellana, head of the national prison system.
“We have two hypotheses, one is that a prisoner set fire to a mattress and the other one is that there was a short circuit in the electrical system,” he said.
The fire was the third fatal prison fire in Honduras in recent years, CNN said. In 2003, 61 prisoners were killed in a fire at a prison in La Ceiba. In 2004, a fire in a San Pedro Sula prison killed 107.
In April, the U.S. State Department published a report critical of conditions in the two dozen prisons in Honduras.
Here is raw video footage from the Honduras prison fire provided by the AP: