25 inmates die in Brazil prison fire


RIO DE JANEIRO, AFP

Some 25 inmates of a Brazil prison burned to death Thursday after prisoners set fire to mattresses in the jail during a clash between rival gangs, officials said.

The fire broke out during a dawn riot at the prison in Ponte Nova, some 180 kilometers (110 miles) southeast of the city of Belo Horizonte.

“We can confirm the death of 25 prisoners,” a spokesman for the Minas Gerais state said.

A group of prisoners escaped from one part of the prison and entered another wing of the jail where they surrounded a rival gang, setting the mattresses in their cells on fire, he said. The blaze ravaged the top floor of the building.

Police used water cannon and tear gas to end the riot, and officials said none of the inmates had escaped the prison during the blaze.

The prison holds some 175 inmates, even though its capacity is only 87, Ponte Nova police commissioner Luis Carlos Chartume told Globo television.

A medical team was due to arrive at the jail to carry out DNA tests and compare dental records in order to identify the bodies of the dead.