Speed Reads

Prison Tragedies

68 dead in Venezuela prison fire

Venezuelan Attorney General Tarek William Saab said late Wednesday that 68 people were killed in a fire that swept through holding cells at the state police headquarters in Valencia, Carabobo state, on Wednesday. Most of those killed were prisoners, but two women who were staying overnight at the station also died, he said, without providing more information. Police fired tear gas to disperse relatives of the inmates who gathered outside the police station demanding news of their family members.

It is unclear what caused the fire, but Venezuelan prisons are notoriously overcrowded, and inmates are often kept in holding cells long past the legal limit of 48 hours. The local nonprofit A Window to Freedom (Una Ventana a la Libertad) said that 65 people died in temporary cells last year due to violence, malnutrition, or disease. The group says Wednesday's fire appears to have started after an inmate shot an officer in the leg, and a fire then broke out and consumed mattresses. Rescuers reportedly had to punch holes in a wall to free some of the trapped prisoners. You can learn more in the report below. Peter Weber