Authorities in Guyana say at least 16 inmates have died in a fire inside a prison in the capital of the South American country.

Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan says inmates apparently set two fires during a riot Thursday over conditions inside the Georgetown Prison. Ramjattan says those who were killed were inside the most secure section of the facility.

Ambulances were seen entering the main gate of the facility and officials say at least eight prisoners have been hospitalized. Hundreds of people have lined up at the prison gates seeking information about relatives inside.

The prison was originally built in the colonial era and holds about 1,000 prisoners. Police believe the inmates were protesting overcrowding and delays for prisoners awaiting trial.