At least 51 people died in a fire at the Tuluá prison in western Colombia on Tuesday (28), according to the country’s National Penitentiary and Prison Institute.
The prisoners, according to investigators, were attempting a mass breakout and, to distract prison officials, set fire to mattresses during the guards’ shift change.
Relatives of prisoners in a prison in Tuluá, Colombia, wait at the door for information about the dead and injured in the fire that hit pavilion 8 there, on June 28, 2022. — Photo: Juan José Huerta/ AP
The flames, however, got out of control and took over the entire building in pavilion 8 of the prison, which has about 200 inmates.
The country’s president, Ivan Duque, regretted the case, which, according to him, will be investigated.
“We regret the events in the Tulua prison, in the Cauca Valley. I am in contact with General Tito Castellanos (who is conducting the case) and I have instructed him to carry out investigations that will allow us to clarify this terrible situation”, declared the president, in a statement on social media.
Entrance to the Tuluá prison in western Colombia, where a mattress fire killed prisoners, on June 28, 2022. — Photo: Juan José Huertas/AP
In total, the Tuluá prison, which is about 90 kilometers from Cali, has almost 1,300 people imprisoned, and non-governmental organizations in the country denounce overcrowding and precarious conditions in the place and throughout the country. According to government data, the Colombian prison system holds up to 81,000 inmates, but currently has 97,000 prisoners.
In 2020, due to the pandemic, Colombia even released prisoners after about 20 prisoners died during riots against overcrowded prisons.
The website of the Colombian newspaper “El Tiempo” says that another 30 people were injured and that the fire has now been brought under control.