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Dozens killed in prison riot

A fire broke out in the middle of a riot at Colombia’s Tulua prison, resulting in 51 deaths

Some 51 people have been killed and 30 injured after a fire broke out during a prison riot and escape attempt at Tulua prison in Colombia on Tuesday morning. The prisoners reportedly set their mattresses on fire during the affray.

The fire began in a cell block housing around 200 inmates, Semana, a Colombian news site, reported. After the prisoners had lit their mattresses on fire, some tried to escape, while others – who are believed to be connected with gangs – began brawling.

Colombian Minister of Justice Wilson Ruiz Orejuela told the story slightly differently, stating that the tragedy began as a fight between inmates, one of whom set fire to a mattress. Orejuela said that the blaze spread, and the Tulua fire department had to be called in to extinguish it. 

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It is unclear how many inmates perished in the fire and how many died as a result of the fighting.   

As families of the prisoners gathered outside the facility to learn of the fates of their loved ones, officials read out a list of survivors. All of the inmates held in other cell blocks were described as being “in perfect condition.”

According to Semana, there were 1,267 inmates in the entire facility at the time of the tragedy, around 200 more than the prison was designed to hold.

Colombian President Ivan Duque has called for an investigation into the incident, while President-elect Gustavo Petro called for a “complete rethinking of prison policy” aimed at protecting the “humanization of the prison and the dignity of the prisoner.”

A similar scenario played out at Bogota’s Modelo Prison in March 2020, when a protest over sanitary conditions devolved into a violent riot that killed 23 prisoners and injured more than 100. 

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