Big Tragedy: 38 prisoners perish as fire guts a prison in Burundi

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38 prisoners perish as fire guts a prison in Burundi.

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Its a sad day in Burundi after a massive fire ripped through an overcrowded prison in the wee ours of Tuesday morning killing 38 of inmates and seriously injuring many more, the country’s vice president said.

Many inmates were still sleeping at the time of the blaze that destroyed several parts of the facility in Burundi’s political capital Gitega, witnesses said.

Vice President Prosper Bazombanza, who visited the scene of the tragedy with several senior ministers, told reporters that 38 people were killed and 69 seriously hurt.

The blaze broke out at about 4:00 am EAT The interior ministry said on Twitter it was caused by an electrical short-circuit.

“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 reached by phone said

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

Those with the most serious burns were taken to hospital, some ferried in police pick-up trucks, while others with milder cases were treated at the scene, witnesses said.

Teams from the Red Cross in Burundi were at the scene to tend to victims, and the flames had now been brought under control, witnesses said.

The nearly 100-year-old facility, the third largest in Burundi, housed a number of political prisoners in a high-security compound, and there was also a women’s wing.

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