Authorities say at least 51 inmates have been killed and at least 24 injured in what became known as the Prison Wall fire in southwestern Colombia.
“One of the prisoners set his bed on fire,” the fight and fires spread, Justice Minister Wilson Ruiz explained in the middle of the day, announcing an updated estimate of the victims.
Six of the injured were in the hospital’s intensive care unit, he said.
Earlier in the day, authorities referred to an attempt to escape from this medium security prison in the Valle del Caca Department, the capital of Kali.
Tito Costellanos, director general of the Colombian Penitentiary Administration (INPEC), made the first statement to local radio stations that the prisoners had died in a fire at around 2am local time to prevent the intervention of guards. Can try to escape.
“When they set fire to the beds, they did not take into account the consequences of what was happening,” he said, giving a preliminary estimate that 49 people had died and 30 had been injured.
Police and the military set up heavy security in the multi-storey building around noon.
By noon, the bodies had not yet been removed from the jail. Forensic experts are working to locate the bodies.
A police officer provided the first list of survivors with anxious relatives waiting in front of the jail for the news.
Lorena, a prisoner’s companion who did not want to be named, said she was able to speak to him at dawn. According to this evidence, the prisoner complained about the “gas shot” to the daily LTMP. “Locking the building was unscientific, they set fire to the beds knowing they could burn them,” Lorena said, questioning the authorities’ version.
According to InPEC, the fire only affected Pavilion No. 8 of the overcrowded prison complex, which holds 180 inmates out of 1,267 (17% of its capacity, 17 inmates).
The fire spread in the corridor and ignited other cell mattresses, the justice minister said.
The six supervisors who used the firefighting equipment to control the disaster and help dozens of prisoners escape were intoxicated. Without their action, “the balance sheet would have been worse,” General Castellanos said.
Conservative Evan Duke, the retiring Colombian president, said he had “given instructions to carry out enlightening research on this dire situation.” “I extend my solidarity to the families of the victims,” he said on Twitter.
Gustavo Petro, Colombia’s left-wing president-elect, sent his condolences to the families of the dead prisoners and called on the state to “completely rethink prison policy around the dignity of prisoners.”
“The Colombian state considers the prison a place of revenge and not for rehabilitation,” the incumbent added on Twitter on August 7, recalling the March 2020 uprising at Bogota prison that left 23 inmates dead.
According to Inpec, there are currently 97,426 people in Colombia who have lost their liberties, representing 20% of the total prison population.