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Two prisons in Ecuador have declared state of emergency following the deaths of more than 100 inmates in a riot at the weekend.
The head of the prisons ministry, Mariano Granados, announced the measures, saying the crisis had created the “perfect storm”.
Earlier reports had put the number of dead at over 100.
Mr Granados said prisoners at the Amazonia wing of the San Carlos prison had killed at least 112 people. He has since revised this figure upwards to 113.
There have been a further 15 deaths at San Felix.
Hundreds of inmates were trapped after prisoners from the prison’s two wings locked themselves inside and started a fire, according to Mr Granados.
He said the fight broke out on Saturday morning and the situation was still difficult as prisoners were unwilling to let police enter the buildings.
‘Level of terror’
The Minister of the Interior, Mario Rosales, said that the declaration of a state of emergency would be reviewed by the interior minister and the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
On Saturday evening Mr Granados added: “There are hundreds of prisoners inside. We know that they are in two buildings that were not entered.
“Our intelligence has given us a level of terror … in the prison authorities they are being held hostage, not letting us bring in reinforcements.”
The situation is reportedly still very difficult as prisoners refuse to open their cells and the territory is covered in a haze of smoke.
Mr Granados says the federal security services, and special forces and navy units have been deployed to help the security forces.
He added that it was time to stop the damage of what he said was an attack on the security of Ecuador, and called on the different prison organisations, prison authorities and political parties to work with him to improve conditions inside the prisons.
Ecuador is joining a number of countries across Latin America struggling to deal with the issue of overcrowding and prison violence.
The declaration of a state of emergency has been temporary for now. The home ministry will be requested to modify the measure if authorities see any improvement in conditions.
In a related development, an adviser to the Ecuadoran interior minister, Jack Saavedra, has confirmed that a delegation from the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, would soon visit the San Carlos prison and work towards providing humanitarian assistance for the victims.
He also confirmed that an enquiry would be conducted and a judicial appeal would be requested.