Fire hits riot-wracked Venezuelan prison

Fire ripped through a prison where Venezuelan troops struggled to put down a revolt by inmates.

Updated: Jun 20, 2011, 10:32 AM IST

Guatire: Fire ripped through a prison
where thousands of Venezuelan troops struggled to put down a
revolt by inmates as dozens of horrified relatives tried to
watch the fighting.

Officials gave few descriptions about the progress of
the three-day battle at the Rodeo I prison and did not say if
more people had been killed or injured beyond the three dead
and 18 wounded reported on the first day of the clash. Gunfire
continued to rattle from the compound.

Deputy Justice Minister Nestor Reverol told state
television the pre-dawn fire was caused by a short circuit
yesterday, and that inmates had been evacuated before flames
engulfed a building. Some relatives outside said that
prisoners with cell phones had told them troops started the
blaze.

Evelyn Rodriguez, 27, climbed a nearby hill for a view
and gasped when she peered through binoculars to see the
prison blacked by the fire.

"My husband and my brother were inside that building,"
Rodriguez said, trying to hold back tears. "I have no idea
what has happened to them."

The violence erupted in the El Rodeo I prison as
troops searched for weapons, and has since extended to Rodeo
II, an adjacent prison. A riot at El Rodeo I on June 12 left
22 dead.

It was not clear how many inmates remained at the
prison or how many were resisting the troops. Justice Minister
Tareck El Aissami said Sunday that at least 2,500 inmates had
been transferred to other prisons.

PTI