Published August 23, 2013
LA PAZ (AFP) – At least 29 people were killed and about 50 others wounded Friday at a prison in eastern Bolivia as clashes between rival gangs ended in a huge fire, officials said.
One of the dead was a child living with incarcerated parents in the maximum-security Palmasola prison in the eastern city of Santa Cruz -- a facility that houses about 5,000 inmates.
"The latest information we have is that the number of dead is already at 29. Of those hospitalized, 35 of them have very serious injuries," prisons director Ramiro Llanos told AFP.
Police had earlier put the death toll at 15.
Local police commander Jorge Aracena said authorities had brought the situation under control.
Aracena said the incident began early Friday when a group of inmates broke into another sector of the prison, setting a huge fire fueled by exploding propane gas tanks.
Bodies were taken to the morgue for autopsies and identification, he said.
Television networks broadcast images of charred bodies and ambulances taking the dead and injured to hospitals, which were overwhelmed by the number of victims.
Authorities called on local residents to donate blood to help the wounded.
Prisons in Bolivia suffer from serious overcrowding. Hundreds of children are forced to live with their parents in jails because they have no other relatives, or because both parents are incarcerated.