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New Year’s Eve Fire Kills 11 Teen-Agers At Juvenile Detention Center

January 2, 1989

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) _ A New Year’s Eve fire at a juvenile detention center, apparently started during a jailbreak, left 11 teen-age immates dead and five injured, police reported.

Police Maj. Patricio Araya said on the scene that 18 of the detention center’s 100 inmates escaped. Authorities said inmates battled with officers who tried to put out the fire.

″The exact causes for the fire are being investigated,″ Araya said. ″But it clearly seems it started when the inmates attempted a escape.″

Authorities at the detention center in the capital also said the fire, which broke out five minutes before midnight Saturday, was ″apparently″ started by the inmates themselves as part of an escape plan.

Nine of the victims died in a bathroom where they sought refuge, and 2 others died at the center’s dormitory, Maj. Araya said.

The fire ″started at the dormitory, at two or three beds. Apparently, it was intentionally caused to trigger a mutiny and escape,″ said a communique issued by the government agency running the detention center.

″When officers tried to put the fire down, they were attacked by the immates, some of them carrying pieces of glass from windows they broke,″ the communique added. It said the fire spread quickly through the old single-story building.

Monday morning relatives of the inmates gathered in front of the destroyed center awaiting to hear from their relatives. Many women cried as officials explained them that the victims were still being identified.

Justice Minister Hugo Rosende, visiting the detention center Sunday morning, said the inmates in the center were aged 16 to 18. He said because of the lack of money, authorities were forced to lodge ″highly dangerous criminals and petty criminals in the same place.″