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Dozens dead in Mexico prison riot: reports


jail2At least 30 people died in a pre-dawn prison riot in Mexico on Thursday, as flames billowed from the building and angry relatives tossed rocks at the gates, local media reported.

Riot police and ambulances were deployed at the Topo Chico prison in the northern industrial city of Monterrey, while families desperate for news flocked to the entrance.

Some relatives threw stones over the gate while others relatives shouted through a fence, hoping to hear information from the inmates.

The Televisa channel reported that 30 died while Milenio television spoke of 50 victims, with inmates and prison guards among them. TV footage showed a fire inside the facility in the middle of the night.

Milenio TV and Reforma newspaper reported that the riot broke out in an apparent escape attempt.

The riot erupted on the eve of Pope Francis’ trip to Mexico, during which he is due to visit another notorious prison, in the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez.

Nuevo Leon state public security spokesman Antonio Arguello said the riot erupted at around midnight, but he was unable to confirm the death toll.

“The authorities formed a security cordon and nobody escaped. Everything was under control at 1:30 am,” Arguello told AFP.

“We can’t say how many people died until forensic services give us a report and the authorities finish counting inmates,” he added.

The state government scheduled a press conference for later in the day.

– Notorious prisons –
Some relatives of prisoners formed a line to block a boulevard.

“We will stay here blocking this avenue until they give us an answer. We want to know how our relatives are doing because they are telling us that there are more than 50 dead and no authority is giving us answers,” Ernestina Grimaldo, whose son is a prisoner, told AFP.

Mexican penitentiaries are notoriously overcrowded and massive prison breaks have taken place in recent years.

In February 2012, 44 inmates were killed and another 30 escaped from another Monterrey prison, known as Apodaca.

Even the country’s top maximum-security prison, the Altiplano near Mexico City, was exposed for weaknesses when drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman escaped through a tunnel in July. He was recaptured in January.

Ruth Villanueva, an expert at the governmental National Human Rights Commission, told local media last year that there was a serious crisis at the country’s prisons, with 72 of them overcrowded by more than 20 percent.

President Enrique Pena Nieto’s administration vowed to reform the penitentiary system following Guzman’s escape last year.

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