The bodies of the inmates, shirtless and blackened by soot, lay on the ground in neat rows, belying the chaos from which they emerged.
Outside the fence, hundreds of relatives rushed the gates of the burned-out prison, anguished and anxious for any word, clashing with soldiers and the police when they could not get in. As a prison officer stood on a balcony, reading out a roll call of the dead and survivors from a handwritten list, faces in the crowd turned away in tears.
It was one of the worst prison fires in recent years in Latin America, with a death toll surpassing 300, most of the victims choking to death in their cells awaiting a rescue that never came. Guards with the keys were nowhere to be found, rescuers said. Some inmates bashed their way through the roof to escape, and kept running. They are now fugitives.
Granted, yes, these were criminals of all sorts. But to die trapped while smoke and fire spread throughout the area is an awful thing, a horrible death sentence. Over 300 are presumed dead of the 900 or so prisoners, with the death count likely to rise. Many of the bodies are burned beyond recognition.