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Honduras Jail Fire Kills Inmates

A short-circuit at a jail in northern Honduras killed at least 90 inmates and injured more than a dozen others before dawn Monday, the country's vice minister of security said.

Armando Calidonio said the fire was caused by a short circuit, and consumed the jail as the inmates slept. It was the second major jail fire in Honduras in a little over a year.

The prison was located in the city of San Pedro Sula, 110 miles north of the capital, Tegucigalpa.

"Everything burned," prisoner Jose Mauricio Lopez told a local radio station from his hospital bed. "Everything happened fast while we were sleeping. It was a fire, and we woke up when our clothes and our bed was in flames."

A riot between rival gang members in April 2003 in another prison in northern Honduras left 86 prisons dead. That uprising began with a fist fight between gang members and escalated when some set mattresses and furniture ablaze in their cells at the 1,600-inmate El Porvenir prison outside of La Ceiba, a port city 220 miles north of Tegucigalpa, the capital.

Prison spokesman Leonel Sauceda said flames engulfed one of the prison's three wood-and-corrugated metal buildings. Of the 86 people who died, some were burned to death, others suffered smoke inhalation and the rest were killed by inmates wielding weapons.

Honduras' 26 prisons were built to house 5,500 inmates but are crammed with 13,000 prisoners, according to government statistics.

Jails in Latin America are overcrowded and loosely controlled, and riots are common.

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