Many prison fire victims had never been charged

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Many of the prisoners in a Honduran jail where fire killed more than 350 inmates had never been charged, let alone convicted, according to a government report.

The report, sent to the United Nations this month, said 57 per cent of about 800 inmates of the Comayagua farm prison north of the capital were either awaiting trial or held as suspected gang members.

A fire that witnesses said was started by an inmate, tore through the prison on Tuesday night, burning and suffocating screaming men in their locked cells as rescuers desperately searched for keys.

Officials yesterday confirmed that 358 had died, making it the world’s deadliest prison fire in a century.

Honduran authorities yesterday said they were investigating other possible causes based on prisoner accounts, including that the fire could have been started in collusion with guards allow an escape.

“All of this isn’t confirmed, but we’re looking into it,” said a spokesman for the attorney general.

Survivors told horrific tales of climbing walls to break the sheet metal roofing and get out, only to see prisoners in other blocks being burned alive. According to the report, the jail usually housed about 800 inmates in premises built for 500, with only 51 guards on duty by day and just 12 at night.