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33 Inmates Die in Argentine Prison Blaze

From Times Wire Services

Thirty-three inmates died and 12 others were injured, two of them seriously, when a fire swept through part of an Argentine prison, authorities said Sunday.

The blaze broke out Saturday night in a special cell block on the fifth floor of the Olmos Penitentiary that housed prisoners who had been recognized for their good behavior.

Prison officials said the trouble began after inmates set fire to mattresses to block guards from entering a cell to break up a prisoner dispute.

“The fire was started intentionally. They burnt mattresses and it got out of control and spread throughout the block,” prison director Julio Barraza said.

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The flames spread rapidly, trapping the victims, he added. Many of the 259 prisoners in the block were due to be released within the next 12 months for good conduct.

Some of the 3,000 prison inmates worked alongside firefighters to help quell the blaze, which completely burned the block, prison officers said.

Buenos Aires provincial Gov. Antonio Cafiero said after visiting the prison Sunday morning that he would propose a reduction in the sentences of the survivors.

The privately owned news agency Noticias Argentinas quoted residents living near the prison as saying they did not hear shouts and noises that are usually associated with prison riots.

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At dawn, names of the dead were announced over loudspeakers to sobbing relatives and friends gathered outside the prison.


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