'Hellish' Honduran Prison Fire Kills 272
Many left to burn in their cells as guard could not be found
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 15, 2012 6:36 AM CST
Firemen enter the National Prison of Comayagua where a fire broke out in Comayagua on February 15, 2012. At least 272 inmates were killed and dozens injured in the blaze.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – At least 272 inmates are dead after a devastating blaze swept a federal prison in central Honduras overnight, officials say. A fire department spokesman in Comayagua described a "hellish" scene in which many prisoners "burned to death or suffocated in their cells." Many were apparently left to die when the guard carrying the key to their cells went missing, reports the AP. Firefighters said that gunfire prevented them from entering the burning building, notes Reuters. The toll could worsen, as the prison held 800 inmates. "This is a preliminary report; there could be a lot more deaths," a forensic expert says.