14 die in latest Honduras prison riot, fire

(AP) TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras - Honduran authorities say at least 14 people have died at a prison after armed inmates started a fire during a riot Thursday.

Yair Mesa, the police commission of the rough northern city of San Pedro Sula, said there are at least 14 dead, but the riot has been brought under control.

"The uprising has been put down with the need to fire shots," Mesa said by telephone from inside the prison. He added the 14 victims apparently died of burns or asphyxiation. The cause of death could not immediately be determined because the bodies were so badly burned.

It was unclear whether that preliminary death toll included the prisoner whose head was cut off and tossed outside the prison. Inmates removed the burned bodies from the site of the blaze and set them out in the prison yard.

Earlier, city fire chief Jose Danilo Flores said the prisoners themselves appeared to have fought the fire inside the facility. But Flores said the armed inmates had kept firefighters from entering earlier in the day.

San Pedro Sula is believed to be one of the most dangerous cities in a country that has the highest homicide rate in the world.

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The uprising came 1 1/2 months after Honduras' overcrowded prisons were hit by the worst prison fire in a century, a Feb. 14 blaze at the Comayagua farm prison that killed 361 inmates.

After Comayagua, the latest incident seemed to a be a tragedy foretold.

In 2008, the latest year for which figures are available, Honduras' prison system had nearly 38 percent more prisoners than it was built for, according to the London-based International Centre for Prison Studies.

A fire at the San Pedro Sula prison in 2004 killed 107 inmates.