“Everyone ran for their lives,” said a survivor to the local press. He did not know how the fire started but that he and the other prisoners were asleep when they awoke to the screams of fellow inmates. “The prisoners forced themselves out of the prison any way they could”, he said.
35 prisoners were transported to a local hospital, he said, and some were then taken to a hospital in the capital.
Before dawn Wednesday, families of the prisoners were already gathering in front of the prison gates and authorities’ offices, demanding to know if their loved ones were among the survivors.
Hundreds of family members pressed against the prison’s gates as an official began to read aloud the names of the survivors.
The country’s prison commissioner said authorities are looking into whether a short circuit sparked the fire or if possibly a prisoner set a mattress on fire. The blaze broke out at 11 p.m. Tuesday (12 a.m. Wednesday ET). The prison holds 851 prisoners.