At least 68 people were killed when fire swept through the cells of a police station in Venezuela early Wednesday—and relatives demanding answers later in the day were given tear gas instead. Tarek William Saab, chief prosecutor in the city of Valencia, says 68 people—66 men and two female visitors—died in "dramatic events" at the police command and detention center, and four prosecutors have been appointed to investigate the incident, CNN reports. "We will deepen the investigations to immediately clarify these painful events that has dozens of Venezuelan families in mourning," Saab says.
Desperate families waiting for news outside the police station were tear-gassed and dispersed after fights with police, Sky News reports. The nonprofit group A Window to Freedom, which monitors conditions at detention facilities in Venezuela, says there are unconfirmed reports that the fire broke out during unrest that began when an armed detainee shot a guard in the leg, the AP reports. Inmates, some of them badly burned, had to be rescued through a hole made in the station wall. The group says severe overcrowding in police station jails is common in Venezuela. "It's grave and alarming," says Carlos Nieto Palma, the group's director.