A massive fire tore through an overcrowded prison in Burundi, killing at least 38 people and injuring dozens more on Dec. 7.
Burundian Vice President Prosper Bazombanza, who visited the scene in the capital Gitega with several senior ministers, told reporters that the fire began at around 4 a.m. local time and seriously injured at least 69 people.
Bazombanza also said that the blaze destroyed parts of the Gitega Central Prison.
An inmate told BBC News over the phone that nearly 90% of the sleeping halls were burnt.
Many inmates were still asleep when the fire broke out.
“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,'” an inmate told AFP News over the phone.
“I don’t know how I escaped, but there are prisoners who were burned completely,” the inmate added.
According to witnesses, those with the most serious burns were brought to the hospital while those with mild cases were treated at the scene.
A police source said that emergency services arrived late to the scene, with a fire truck arriving two hours after the fire began.
Turkish news agency Anadolu Agency reported that about seven fire trucks were deployed to extinguish the fire.
The Burundian Interior Ministry said on Twitter that a short circuit caused the fire.
According to prison authority figures, the prison had over 1,500 inmates, exceeding its designed capacity of 400.
The prison is nearly 100 years old and is the third largest in Burundi.
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