A prison massacre that erupted Tuesday in Ecuador has killed 116 people and wounded about 80, Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso said Wednesday.
The death toll represents a significant uptick from earlier estimates after Tuesday’s bloody clashes at the Litoral Penitentiary, located on the outskirts of the coastal city of Guayaquil.
In a speech televised Wednesday, Lasso indicated the prison was not yet entirely secured, and urged inmates’ relatives and families to stay away from the area.
“I wish I was able right now to say that yes, we have completely secured the Litoral Penitantiary, but frankly I cannot. This meeting we just had was to organize the next steps forward, and I hope in the next few hours you will see some of the plans we agreed in action,” he said in a televised address.
Lasso also said more bodies might be found in the next few hours.
Ecuadorian prison agency SNAI had earlier reported detonations and “fights between criminal gangs” in one of the pavilions of the prison.
Those killed and injured suffered from injuries resulting from bullets and grenades, according to regional police commander Fausto Buenaño.
“The inmates call us (saying) ‘Sister they are killing me. Call the police, they need to enter the pavilion (prison wing) five,” the sister of one inmate told Reuters.
At least five of the deceased prisoners were beheaded before responding police and the tactical forces “managed to restore order,” the governor of Guayas Province, Pablo Arosemena, said Tuesday.
Relatives of inmates wait for news as a coroners’ truck arrives at the Litoral Penitentiary after a riot, in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021.
Ecuador’s prisons have been wracked with bloodshed this year, with more than 140 violent deaths reported, according to SNAI figures.
In response to the latest deaths, the government has declared a 60-day state of emergency across Ecuador’s prisons. The measure allows military troops to be deployed to penitentiaries, and limits inmates’ rights to privacy and free association in order to allow searches and other surveillance measures.
The state will devote $24 million to the prisons system during the state of emergency, Lasso added during his speech.