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Thoughts and prayers as Burundi prison fire kills at least 38 people

In very sad news, atleast 38 people have died in a Burundi prison fire and scores more have been injured in the fire which tore through a prison in Burundi. Images circulating online show a building engulfed in flames and piles of bodies, said to be of inmates in the jail.

Vice-President Prosper Bazombanza also told reporters the blaze hit an overcrowded facility in the capital Gitega; with at least 69 people seriously injured.

“It is really catastrophic,” one inmate told the BBC over the phone.

“I’d say almost 90% of sleeping halls are burnt.”

A journalist outside the prison told the BBC that nurses from Gitega hospital in Burundi have entered the prison to help the victims. Some of the nurses are took out the dead and wounded.

The blaze started at around 04:00 local time (02:00 GMT).

“We started shouting that we were going to be burned alive when we saw the flames rising very high; but the police refused to open the doors of our quarters, saying; ‘these are the orders we have received’,” one inmate told AFP news agency over the phone.

Thoughts and prayers as Burundi prison fire kills at least 38 people
Burundian security officers gather at the main prison where at least 38 inmates were killed and dozens more injured in a fire in Gitega, Burundi December 7, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer

“I don’t know how I escaped, but there are prisoners who were burned completely,” he added.

Witnesses told AFP the Burundi prison fire has now been brought under control.

With capacity for 400 prisoners, Gitega prison held 1,539 inmates as of last month; according to the Christian Association Against Torture (ACAT-Burundi).

A tweet posted by Burundi’s interior ministry said a short circuit was to blame for the fire.

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