Death toll rises in Chile prison fire

Reuters/Carlos Vera

At least 83 people have died and another 14 are critically injured in a prison fire in Santiago, Chile, as Health Minister Jaime Manalich called the blaze "probably the worst in the history of our prison system."


The fire broke out in tower block five in San Miguel prison at dawn on Wednesday during a fight among inmates, according to the National Gendarmerie Director, Luis Masferrer.

The injured were taken to nearby hospitals for treatment, including three policeman and a firefighter.

Families of the prisoners gathered outside the jail to try to find information about their loved ones. Wednesday was a visitor's day and many relatives were already outside the prison when the fire took place.

"Please, Lord, we want to know what has happened to our children," sobbed one woman outside the prison.

Chile's prisons are known to be overcrowded, and San Miguel was no exception, holding a total of 1,900 inmates for a prison with a 900-person capacity.

"This tragedy reflects the precariousness of the Chilean prison system that we have denounced since we took on the job. The percentage of the overpopulation and overcrowding in this unit needs to be analyzed to determine the causes of this sad event," said Masferrer.

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