PANAMA CITY – Seven inmates were injured in a fire that started during a riot at a youth prison in Tocumen, a town located northeast of Panama City, officials said Monday.
The fire broke out Sunday and “apparently was not handled in the best way,” the Central American country’s interior minister, Roxana Mendez, said.
The Attorney General’s Office is investigating what caused the riot, which prevented firefighters from entering the prison in a timely fashion, as well as whether police took appropriate action, Mendez said.
The National Police sealed off the burning prison to prevent a mass escape after the riot, media reports said.
An unidentified police 2nd lieutenant refused to allow firefighters to enter the prison, a fireman told Panamanian television.
Five of the seven injured inmates are listed in serious condition from burns at Panama City’s Santo Tomas Hospital.
The fire comes in the wake of activists’ allegations about human rights violations in Panama’s prisons, where overcrowding, trial delays and physical abuse are common. EFE