A prison fire in Burundi, Africa, has left 38 inmates and 69 seriously injured. Some prisoners claim that the police refused to open the doors, making escape impossible.
At 4 am, a devastating fire broke out in Gitega Prison, Burundi, possibly due to a short circuit. Eyewitnesses say that many inmates were still asleep when the fire destroyed large parts of the building. The Vice President of the East African country, Prosper Bazombana, visited the devastated site with a number of senior ministers, and reported that 38 people were killed and 69 others injured.
One of the prisoners participated in a telephone conversation with Agence France-Presse: “We started screaming that we were going to be burned alive when we saw the flames burning, but the police refused to open the doors to our rooms. They said: These are the orders we received. I don’t know how you escaped, but there are prisoners who were completely burned.”
The police refused to open the doors to our rooms
Prisoners with severe burns were taken to hospital, some in the back of police trucks. The Red Cross, among others, treated minor injuries on site to help prisoners. The Burundian police stated that the fire brigade did not act until late, about two hours after the fire broke out. Everything will be under control now.
All information comes from witnesses or the Burundian state. Soldiers and police officers cordoned off the prison to keep journalists and other interested parties away from the site. Some journalists were allowed to take a closer look at the prison remains under the eyes of soldiers and police officers.
This nearly 100-year-old prison, the third largest in Burundi, held political prisoners, among other things. There was also a women’s suite. At the time of the fire, about 1,500 people were trapped, which is more than 400 people, which is the intended capacity of the building. In August, a fire was reported in the prison due to a short circuit. There were no reports of deaths or injuries at that time.
Gitega Prison is not the only overcrowded prison in Burundi. While it is estimated that a total of 12,400 Burundians are imprisoned, there is officially only space in the country’s prisons for 4,200 inmates. In June, the President of Burundi already pardoned 5,000 prisoners, but this is still far from enough.
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