Home Emergency Management News Fire in Venezuela Jail Kills 68, Most of Them Prisoners

Fire in Venezuela Jail Kills 68, Most of Them Prisoners

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By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest

At least 68 people died when a fire broke out during a riot at a Venezuelan police station jail late Wednesday, The New York Times reported. Most of the dead were prisoners.

Some news reports said the fire began when the rioting inmates set fire to their mattresses. But those reports could not be confirmed.

Venezuela Attorney General Tarek William Saab said on Twitter that 66 of the victims were men. Two women who were visiting the police station overnight also died, according to National Public Radio.

"We have appointed four prosecutors to clarify these dramatic events," Saab said, according to CNN. "We will deepen the investigations to immediately clarify these painful events that have dozens of Venezuelan families in mourning."

Angry relatives of detainees gathered outside the jail in Valencia, a city about 100 miles west of the capital of Caracas. They were met by police who fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Carmen Caldera, a parent of one of the inmates, told CNN that the authorities were withholding information. "They haven't told me anything," she said. "I want to know about my child. I don't have any information on him, I don't know anything. We want information about our family members. We need information. Look at how desperate we are."

Government Official Says Families Will Receive Information at ‘Opportune Moment’

Family members will be informed of the total number of victims at an "opportune moment," said Jesus Santander, secretary-general of the Carabobo state government. He confirmed that detainees were among the dead.

Venezuela's prisons are notoriously overcrowded and in poor condition. Workers at the scene told The New York Times that the jail area of the police station had a capacity for about 60 prisoners. But there was no word on how many prisoners were actually in the jail when the fire broke out.

Venezuelan Prisons Are Controlled by Violent Gangs

Human Rights Watch described the notorious conditions in Venezuelan prisons in its world report for 2018."Corruption, weak security, deteriorating infrastructure, overcrowding, insufficient staffing, and poorly trained guards allow armed gangs to exercise effective control over inmate populations within prisons," it noted.

The journalism and research group InSight Crime said Venezuela's prisons are some of the "most violent in the world." The group reported more than 6,400 murders between 1999 and 2014.

Jail cells intended for temporary overnight holding were packed with 33,000 people in a space meant for 5,000, the group reported. Cells "are so crowded that prisoners have to take turns to sleep on the floor."

David Hubler David E. Hubler brings a variety of government, journalism and teaching experience to his position as a Quality Assurance Editor at APUS. David’s professional background includes serving as a senior editor at CIA and the Voice of America. He has also been a managing editor for several business-to-business and business-to-government publishing companies. David has taught high school English in Connecticut and at Northern Virginia Community College. He has a master’s degree for Teachers of English from the University of New Hampshire and a B.A. in English from New York University. In March 2017, Rowman & Littlefield published the paperback edition of David’s latest book, "The Nats and the Grays, How Baseball in the Nation's Capital Survived WWII and Changed the Game Forever."