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Fire starts at prison in Honduras after inmates riot, at least 1 dead
TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) ' Armed inmates at one of Honduras' most dangerous, overcrowded prisons started a fire during a prison riot Thursday, fighting among themselves and tossing the severed head of one prisoner over the walls of the jail as they held firefighters at bay.
San Pedro Sula police commissioner Yair Mesa said "there is at least one person dead."
"There could be more (dead), they have guns," Mesa said while explaining that the body count wasn't yet clear.
He added that "the fire started as a result of a riot among the inmates," though it was still unclear if they intentionally set the blaze or if it broke out by accident during the riot.
The grisly scene at the prison in the rough northern city of San Pedro Sula came 1 1/2 months after Honduras' overcrowded prisons were hit by the worst prison fire in a century, a Feb. 14 blaze at the Comayagua farm prison that killed 361 inmates.
The toll in the San Pedro Sula riot appeared nowhere near as bad as the Comayagua tragedy, in part because city fire chief Jose Danilo Flores said the prisoners themselves appeared to be fighting the fire inside the facility.
But Flores said the armed inmates had kept firefighters from entering.
Mesa said police and soldiers "are prepared to enter any time to put down the uprising."
But after Comayagua, the latest incident seemed to a be a tragedy foretold.
In 2008, the latest year for which figures are available, Honduras' prison system had nearly 38 percent more prisoners than it was built for, according to the London-based International Centre for Prison Studies.
A fire at the San Pedro Sula prison in 2004 killed 107 inmates.