Up to 30 people have been killed during a riot at a maximum security prison in Bolivia, officials say. Gang rivalry inside the overcrowded prison is believed to have sparked the clashes.
The fighting took place at dawn on Saturday inside the Palmasola maximum security prison in the eastern city of Santa Cruz, ending in a fire which started when propane gas canisters exploded.
Bolivia's national ombudsman and the Santa Cruz office of the Permanent Assembly of Human Rights have put the death toll at 30, while the Bolivian minister of prisons, Ramiro Llanos, said 29 had been killed.
"Of those hospitalized, 35 of them have very serious injuries," Llanos told the news agency ‘AFP.
Child among the dead
One of the dead is understood to have been a child living with incarcerated parents inside the facility. Two months ago, the UN complained to the Bolivian government about its policy of allowing children through age 6 to live with parents in prisons.
Many of the wounded had second- and third-degree burns and were taken to hospital. Television footage showed images of charred bodies and ambulances taking away the dead and wounded.
Propane tanks set ablaze
Local police commander Jorge Aracena said the incident began early on Friday, when a group of inmates broke into another part of the prison and set off a huge fire fueled by exploding propane gas tanks.
Bolivia’s national police chief, Alberto Aracena, said prisoners from the Cellblock B exploded the gas tanks in Cellblock A. "There was a fight for control in two cellblocks in the prison," he told reporters.
Bolivian state news agency ABI has quoted a statement from President Evo Morales, who said he had ordered a thorough investigation. Authorities said the situation at the prison is now under control.
jr/slk (AP, AFP)