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Officials lower death toll from Honduran prison fire

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 8:35 PM EST, Sun February 19, 2012
Authorities have not yet determined the cause of the prison fire last week in Comayagua , Honduras.
Authorities have not yet determined the cause of the prison fire last week in Comayagua , Honduras.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • An official says 358 people died, not 382 as previously reported
  • Blaze tore through the overcrowded facility Tuesday night
  • Inmates complain guards were slow to open doors

(CNN) -- Fire officials on Sunday lowered the number of people they say were killed when a fire ripped through a prison in central Honduras last week to 358.

Sgt. Josue Garcia with the Comayagua fire department said 353 bodies were found at the scene, while five more people died at a hospital as a result of their injuries.

Last week, a fire chief of the same department said 382 people were killed.

Authorities have not yet determined the cause of the blaze, which tore through the overcrowded facility Tuesday night.

Comayagua's governor said she received a call from an inmate inside the prison reporting the fire.

"What I know, according to what I've been told, is that someone lit a mattress on fire and said, 'We're all going to die,'" Gov. Paola Castro said.

Inmates have also complained that guards were slow to open doors for them to escape. Prisoners broke out of the facility any way they could, one survivor said.

"The authorities should have opened the gates," said Odalis Aleyda Najera, a relative of a victim. "It is preferable to face the responsibility for a mass escape of prisoners and avoid situations like this where there are more than 300 dead inmates."

The U.S. State Department published a report last April criticizing conditions at Honduras' 24 prisons.

Prisoners "suffered from severe overcrowding, malnutrition, and lack of adequate sanitation," the report said, citing human rights groups.

CNN's Helena DeMoura contributed to this report.

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