No fewer than 68 people have died after fire swept through the cell area inside a police station in Venezuela.
The country’s chief prosecutor, Attorney General Tarek William Saab, said that nearly all the dead were prisoners. He said two women who were staying overnight at the station were also killed, but did not provide any further details.
The blaze is said to have followed a riot by detainees being held at the state police headquarters in Valencia, a town in Carabobo state about 100 miles west of Caracas. Following the sad incident, angry relatives gathered outside the station to find out if their loved ones died in the fire. The relatives demanded to know if their loved ones survived and this led to a clash with police officers in riot gear. Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd.
“I don’t know if my son is dead or alive! They haven’t told me anything,” cried Aida Parra, who said she last saw her son a day before, when she went to deliver food to him.
Photos from the scene showed prisoners being taken out on stretchers, their limbs frozen in awkward positions as skin peeled off. Outside the police station, some relatives buried their hands in their faces and cried in anguish. Others had to be held up with the support of friends and family as they collapsed in despair. While some wept quietly and clutched their hands in prayer.
This is not the first time such will happen in a country where human rights groups complain about bad prison conditions. A fire at a prison in the western state of Zulia killed more than 100 inmates in 1994.