25 inmates killed in riot

Sunday, December 16, 2001

ASUNCION, Paraguay -- Rioting inmates started a fire that swept through a prison in the border city of Ciudad del Este on Saturday, killing at least 25 people and injuring about 200 others, authorities said.

The fire started after a prisoner, in an apparent escape bid, attacked a guard with a homemade knife, and the jailer shot and killed him, Paraguayan television stations reported.

More than 500 inmates then began rioting, with some setting mattresses on fire. The fire spread rapidly through the cellblocks, spewing clouds of black smoke that asphyxiated inmates, Canal 13 television reported.

Firefighters had put out the fire by Saturday afternoon, and authorities said they had found many blackened bodies locked in the cells. The bodies of 25 inmates had been found by late Saturday.

"The toll stands at 25 but that could rise as dozens of inmates suffered serious burns and may not survive," said Augusto Anibal Lima, a government official for the Alto Parana region where the prison is located.

Lima said volunteers used bulldozers and other heavy equipment to smash holes through the prison's walls to rescue inmates.

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