BOGOTA – At least 51 people died and 24 others were injured on Tuesday in a blaze at a prison in the southwestern Colombian city of Tulua, after inmates rioted and set fire to mattresses, local authorities said.
The prison does not have a firefighting system, according to Tito Castellanos, director of the National Penitentiary and Prison Institute. “What we initially managed to use were portable extinguishers.”
Once the fire broke out early morning at the prison housing 180 inmates, a protocol went into effect to save those inside, and some guards were injured trying to help the inmates, he said.
The injured, including two guards, were taken to local hospitals by Tulua firefighters, who brought the fire under control. According to health authorities, nine of the injured were in intensive care units due to severe burns and smoke inhalation.
As many as 49 of the inmates died at the prison and two others died after being taking to hospital.
No prisoners escaped during the riot sparked by a clash between some of the inmates, said Castellanos.
Colombian President Ivan Duque tweeted: “We lament the events that occurred at the Tulua prison … I have ordered an investigation to clarify this terrible situation. My solidarity with the families of the victims.”
President-elect Gustavo Petro also lamented the incident and expressed his condolences to the bereaved families.