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Columbia prison fire leads to 51 inmate deaths

Fifty-one inmates have died during a riot in a prison in the Colombian city of Tuluá after a fire started during a protest by prisoners overnight, according to the director of the national prisons agency.

“It is a tragic and disastrous event,” Gen Tito Castellanos told Caracol Radio on Tuesday. “There was a situation, apparently a riot, and the prisoners lit some mattresses and a conflagration occurred that unfortunately triggered the death of 49 prisoners.” He said later confirmed that two more people had died after being taken to hospital. A further 30 people were injured and dozens evacuated.

The prison is a medium-security facility in the city of Tuluá, an industrial and commercial centre in Colombia’s Cauca Valley. The prison has 1,267 inmates and the cell block where the fire occurred houses 180. Castellanos said the fire broke out in an area where at least 160 inmates were confined, adding that the building was old and didn not have the fire-suppression system needed for the number of people inside.

The country’s president, Iván Duque, who is visiting Portugal, tweeted that the incident would be investigated. “We regret the events in the prison in Tuluá, Valle del Cauca. I am in touch with Castellanos and I have given instructions to carry forward investigations that allow us to clarify this terrible situation,” he wrote.