Monterrey (Mexico) (AFP) – At least 49 inmates were killed in a Mexican prison brawl as rival groups fought with bats, sticks and blades and ignited a fire in the overcrowded penitentiary, authorities said.
Twelve others were injured during the “pitched battle” that lasted 30 to 40 minutes at the Topo Chico prison in the northern industrial city of Monterrey, said Nuevo Leon state Governor Jaime Rodriguez.
The fight erupted following a dispute over control of the prison between two rival members of the Zetas drug cartel, Rodriguez said.
“They used sharp weapons, bats, sticks,” the governor told radio Imagen, adding that the 60-year-old penitentiary houses 3,800 inmates, twice its capacity, overseen by 100 guards.
One of the inmates was shot dead by a prison guard who was protecting a group of women, Rodriguez said.
During the brawl, inmates set a fire in a supply room and TV images showed flames coming out of the prison in the middle of the night. Authorities are investigating reports of gunfire.
Milenio TV showed video made by neighbors of a brawl in the prison yard, with one inmate falling to the ground as others beat him with sticks in the deadliest Mexican prison riot in recent years.
Rodriguez had earlier given a death toll of 52 but later revised it to 49.
The riot erupted on the eve of Pope Francis’ trip to Mexico, during which he is due to visit another notorious prison, in the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez.
Hundreds of relatives flocked to the prison’s gates to demand information. Some bawled and fainted after officials placed a list of victims on a wall outside.
“All this for a robbery, my son was innocent,” a woman cried after seeing her son’s name on the list.
Rodriguez told a news conference that the clash erupted late Wednesday and that authorities brought it under control at 1:30 am Thursday.
“We are experiencing a tragedy stemming from the difficult situation that they are living through at penitentiary facilities,” Rodriguez said.
Five of the injured inmates were in serious condition.
Troops and federal police were deployed inside the prison to keep it under control. Rodriguez said no inmates escaped.