Dispatches > News

Yemen's 'turnover'

"Yemen's 'turnover'" Continued...

Issue: "2012 Cities Issue," March 10, 2012

Burning tragedy

Honduran officials say they're working to determine the cause of one of the world's worst prison fires in a century: The Feb. 14 blaze at a jail in the town of Comayagua killed at least 350 inmates.

The fire may have begun when an inmate set his mattress on fire. Emergency crews said many prisoners died because firemen couldn't locate guards with keys to the cells. Survivor Antonio Valladaras recounted hearing prisoners cry for help: "Guards, we're burning, we're dying, open the cells."

The disaster highlighted deplorable prison conditions in Honduras, the country with the world's highest murder rate. Last year, a U.S. State Department report said that many Honduran prisoners endure malnutrition, lack of medical care, poor sanitation, rampant gang violence, and severe overcrowding. At least 856 men lived in the Comayagua prison, a jail designed for 500. Only two guards were on duty inside the prison on the night of the fire. Human-rights prosecutor German Enamorado said: "This tragedy could have been averted or at least not been so catastrophic if there had been an emergency system."

Pay up or shut down

South Sudan expelled the head of Chinese-Malaysian oil group Petrodar in a growing crisis over oil receipts with Sudan, the country it seceded from last July. Petrodar, the main oil firm operating in the country, pumped 230,000 barrels per day and exported South Sudanese oil through a Sudan pipeline running north to Port Sudan. But South Sudanese officials shut down oil production in January over Sudan's failure to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in oil receipts owed the South and its imposition of escalating pipeline transit fees. Since the country's breakup last year, Sudan's oil revenues, which used to make up 90 percent of the country's exports and were its main source of hard currency, have largely dried up. The oil crisis plus border disputes that have displaced thousands threaten all-out war between the two countries.

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