Relatives of hundreds of inmates killed in a prison fire in Honduras last week have stormed a morgue demanding the remains of their loved ones for burial, media reports citing officials said late on Monday.
Many of them had been camping outside the morgue in capital Tegucigalpa, waiting for the return of the bodies for burial. Some reportedly forced their way into the morgue late on Monday to retrieve the bodies, but were driven out by security forces guarding the facility.
Some 360 prisoners perished in the massive fire that swept through the prison in Comayagua, nearly 60 miles north of the national capital on Tuesday last. Most of the victims were either burnt or choked to death in their cells.
Some of the bodies were burned beyond recognition. Authorities were trying to identify the bodies with the help of forensic experts, as relatives waited for the bodies of their loved ones.
Officials said the bodies would be returned to relatives only after identification was completed. The relatives had attempted to storm the prison to confirm the condition of their kins a day after the incident, forcing police to fire into the air and use teargas to disperse them.
There were some 853 inmates in the Comayagua prison when the deadly fire broke out which, officials say, is more than double its normal capacity. An investigation was on to determine whether the fire was caused by a riot or faulty electrical wiring.
Honduras President Porfirio Lobo had pledged that the investigation into the incident would be "full and transparent." He also suspended several local and national prison officials until the investigation cleared them, and ordered a safety review of all prisons in the country.
Most of the prisons in Honduras are overcrowded, with fires and clashes between rival drug gangs and other criminal groups, as well as riots breaking out frequently. At least 107 inmates were killed in a fire at the Centro Penal de San Pedro Sula prison in 2004.
In recent years, Honduras has emerged as a major transit point for smuggling cocaine from South America to the United States as well as Europe. According to the United Nations, the Latin American nation tops the world list in the number of drug-related killings.
by RTT Staff Writer
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