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25 Killed in Paraguay Prison Riot

December 15, 2001

ASUNCION, Paraguay (AP) _ Rioting inmates set off a fire that swept through a prison in the border city of Ciudad del Este on Saturday, killing at least 25 inmates and injuring about 200 others, authorities said.

The fire started after inmates apparently bent on escaping attacked a guard with a homemade knife and the jailer fired back, killing the man, Paraguayan television stations reported.

More than 500 inmates then began rioting, with some apparently setting mattresses on fire. The fire spread through the cellblocks, spewing clouds of smoke that asphyxiated inmates, Canal 13 television reported.

Firefighters had put out the fire by midday Saturday, and authorities said they found many blackened bodies in the cells. One cell alone contained six bodies and a total of 25 had been found by late Saturday.

Some inmates survived by fleeing to a back prison yard where they were doused with water, one station reported. Others, trapped in the flames, cried out for help from their cells as fire consumed a large part of the building.

Ciudad del Este is located some 300 miles east of the capital of Asuncion.

The prison was built to hold only 200 inmates but local reports suggested it housed many more, though no exact count was available.

Ciudad del Este, on Paraguay’s so-called ``Triple Border″ with Brazil and Argentina, has a reputation as a lawless region rife with contraband, gun and drug smuggling.

An investigating judge was dispatched to the scene, where tearful families gathered, seeking information about relatives inside.

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