The death toll in the Honduras prison fire has now reached 359, making this probably the most disastrous prison fire in history. Preliminary inquiries suggest that it was an accident caused by a cigarette. Initial reports that the blaze was started deliberately are now being dismissed.
American inspectors say the gaol was overcrowded and that it contained too much inflammable material. Relatives who stormed the morgue where the bodies of their loved ones were being held, claim to have seen evidence of bullet wounds, though the authorities have denied that any prisoners were shot.
Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world, but many of the prisoners at Comayagua had not been convicted and were awaiting trial. Last year the US State Department said that many inmates in Honduras’s gaols suffered from malnutrition.
This is the third major prison fire in the country in just 9 years In 2003, 70 inmates were killed at another prison, and in 2004 the death toll was more than 100 at a third. Human Rights Watch say that following the fires: ‘everybody feels pretty sorry for a few days.’ Then presumably the feeling passes.