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Fire in Chilean prison kills at least 81

An inmate waved a Chilean flag from inside San Miguel public prison in Santiago yesterday after a fire broke out. An inmate waved a Chilean flag from inside San Miguel public prison in Santiago yesterday after a fire broke out. (Ivan Alvarado/ Reuters)
Associated Press / December 9, 2010

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SANTIAGO, Chile — A fire that began during a riot in a severely overcrowded prison killed at least 81 inmates yesterday and seriously injured 14 others, officials said.

Chileans nationwide could hear the screams of inmates after a prisoner using an illegal cellphone called state television for help.

“The conditions that existed inside this prison are absolutely inhumane,’’ said Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, who visited an emergency center where inmates were being treated for severe burns and smoke inhalation.

National prison police director Luis Masferrer said the blaze broke out about 5:30 a.m. at the San Miguel prison south of the capital.

It was brought under control three hours later.

Preliminary reports indicated the fire was set intentionally, said investigator Alejandro Pena.

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