Bolivia prison riot leaves at least 29 dead

A medic treats a wounded man at the Palmasola jail. Photo: 23 August 2013 A number of inmates were taken to hospital with burns after the riot

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A riot at a jail in eastern Bolivia has left at least 29 people dead and more than 50 injured, officials say.

The head of police, Alberto Jorge Aracena, said many of the bodies had been badly burnt.

He said fighting broke out early on Friday between inmates at the maximum security area of the Palmasola jail in the city of Santa Cruz.

"There was a fight for control in two cellblocks in the prison," said Mr Aracena.

He said prisoners in one of the blocks had blown up a metal propane tank in another block around dawn.

Local media reported that shots had been heard after the explosion. A fire that broke out shortly afterwards took almost two hours to put out.

Mr Aracena said the authorities had brought the situation under control.

Another government official, Celso Parada, said the gas explosion had caused many injuries.

"I saw some 60 injured inmates. Some of them were badly burnt," he said.

Mr Parada said the death toll could eventually be much higher.

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He also said he had seen the charred body of a small boy.

Prisons in Bolivia are often overcrowded, but not only with adults. Hundreds of children live in them while their parents serve their sentences.

Under the country's legislation, children under six years are allowed to stay in their parents' cells.

But many remain there even longer, as there is nowhere else for them to go.

President Evo Morales expressed "dismay" over the deaths, ordering an urgent investigation.

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