9 Dec 2010

Chile prison fire kills 83 inmates

7:12 am on 9 December 2010

A fire in a prison in the Chilean capital Santiago on Wednesday has killed 83 inmates and critically injured 14 others.

Officials said the fire was deliberately started during a fight between inmates in one of the crowded prison's five towers.

Justice Minister Felipe Bulnes said the prison housed 1,960 inmates, nearly twice the 1,100 inmate capacity.

Frantic relatives of the inmates rushed to the jail's walls, screaming and imploring police to let them in to rescue their loved ones.

President Sebastian Pinera said the number of dead may rise.

"We cannot keep living with a prison system which is absolutely inhumane," he said, citing chronic overcrowding in the country's jails.

"We are going to speed up the process to ensure our country has a humane, dignified prison system that befits a civilized country."