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Anger at Chile jail overcrowding after deadly fire

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Anger at Chile jail overcrowding after deadly fire


A fire at a prison near the Chilean capital Santiago has killed 83 inmates and critically injured another 14, according to the government.

Officials say the fire was started deliberately during an early morning fight between prisoners at the San Miguel jail, south of the city.

It took hours to bring the flames under control. The fourth floor of the building was destroyed. Some 200 inmates were moved outside to a prison yard.

As families gathered at the gates, questions were already being asked about overcrowding. The government said the jail housed nearly 2,000 —almost double its capacity.

There were scuffles with police as frustrated and angry relatives waited in vain for news.

Many had been on their way to the jail as Wednesday is visiting day.

“I just came now, I have three nephews here and they are all in the floor where the fire began,” cried one woman.

“Nothing, they haven’t told us anything,” said another, desperate for news of her son.

A prison guards’ union has claimed that the overnight surveillance team was only five strong.

Visiting the jail, the Chilean president condemned overcrowding in the country’s prisons. Chile, said Sebastian Pinera, could not continue with a system he described as absolutely inhumane.

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