Police station cell fire leaves 68 dead in Venezuela

The fire started when prisoners attempted to break out of the police station cell in Valencia • Police used tear gas to disperse relatives who surrounded the station

Families outside of the police station were tear-gassed by authorities
Families outside of the police station were tear-gassed by authorities

Rioting and a fire at a police station in the Venezuelan city of Valencia, has left 68 people dead, government officials say.

Chief State Prosecutor Tarek Saab said an investigation into what had happened would begin immediately.

The fire started after prisoners set a mattress alight in an attempt to break out on Wednesday.

Police then used tear gas to disperse relatives who surrounded the station after news of the fire broke out. Authorities did not give any information until late into the evening.

“The State Prosecutor’s Office guarantees to deepen investigations to immediately clarify what happened in these painful events that have left dozens of Venezuelan families in mourning,” said Chief Prosecutor Tarek William Saab on Twitter.

Venezuelan prisons are notoriously overcrowded and filled with weapons and drugs. Riots leaving dozens dead are not uncommon.

State official Jesus Santander confirmed a police officer had been shot in the aftermath of the blaze, which has been brought under control.

“Forensic doctors are determining the number of fatalities,” Santander said. A policeman was shot in the leg and was in a stable condition and firefighters had extinguished the flames, he said.

Some women and children who were visiting inmates are thought to be among the dead.

Many Venezuelan prisons are lawless and have been for decades. Prisoners often openly wield machine guns and grenades, use drugs and leave guards powerless.

More in World

Get access to the real stories first with the digital edition

Subscribe