68 Die In Venezuela Jail Fire

Angry relatives in front of a police barricade
Angry relatives in front of a police barricade

Scores of people have died in a blaze that engulfed a jail in the Venezuelan city of Valencia, according to the country's head prosecutor.

Sixty-eight people died in the fire at a police command and detention center, according head prosecutor Tarek William Saab's official account, report CNN and the BBC.

"We have appointed four prosecutors to clarify these dramatic events," Saab said, adding that 66 of those killed were men and two were women.

"We will deepen the investigations to immediately clarify these painful events that has dozens of Venezuelan families in mourning," Saab said.

As news filtered out early in the day, angry family members seeking information clashed with police and pushed against a barricade, prompting officers to shoot tear gas at the crowd, according to local media reports.

Carmen Caldera, a parent of one of the inmates, said the authorities were withholding information from them. "They haven't told me anything," she said.

"I want to know about my child. I don't have any information on him, I don't know anything. We want information about our family members. We need information. Look at how desperate we are."

State official Jesus Santander said the situation had now been brought under control. He said the state of Carabobo was in mourning.

The circumstances surrounding the fire have not been officially confirmed.

The association Una Ventana a la Libertad (A Window on Freedom), which monitors jail conditions, said its reports showed a police officer had been shot in the leg by a detainee and that shortly afterwards mattresses in cells were set ablaze and the fire quickly spread.

Photo credit: AP