By Egide Lucky
At around 4 am 07 December, a big fire set aflame the Gitega central prison based in the Burundi political capital. The fire was caused by a short circuit. The government promised to pay treatment charges for the wounded and support families of the deceased.
In the morning of this 07th of December, fire trucks and firefighters from the police were fighting the fire that had erupted inside the Gitega central prison. Agents from the Red Cross helped taking the injured to the Gitega regional hospital and evacuating the dead. Journalists were not allowed to film or take picture of the prison halls that were on fire.
“Everyone was asleep and we have been awoken by groans and a dense smoke. Everyone started running for their life. The quickest were able to run to the inner courtyard. But very quickly, the fire blocked all the exits,” testified one prisoner who survived the fire, adding that nothing was saved despite efforts of the firefighters.
“We tried to break doors so we could escape but the police started shooting. They opened the halls when there was already too much fire. Some prisoners fought to get out in the courtyard in vain,” said another prisoner.
In the afternoon, the Burundi Vice-President Prosper Bazombanza arrived at the prison as he joined four ministers who had been at place since the morning.
“38 prisoners died and 69 were injured. Mattresses, beds, food stocks and clothes of prisoners have also been reduced to ashes by the fire,” said Prosper Bazombanza, Vice-president. He added that the source of the short circuit was the anarchic installation of different electric devices by prisoners.
He called on the minister in charge of solidarity to intervene with necessary materials that can be helping prisoners before the rehabilitation of the prison.
“The government will do everything to provide the survivors with emergency aid. The burial of the deceased and the health care bill for the injured will be covered by the government,” also said the vice-president before he called on the ministry in charge of infrastructure to mobilize means and staff for the reconstruction of the prison.
On his Twitter account, the Head of State Evariste Ndayishimiye expressed his condolences to the families of the deceased and wished a speedy recovery to the injured.
It’s not the first time that the Gitega central prison catches fire. On the 21st of August, a fire caused by a short circuit broke out into the prison but no deaths or injuries were reported.
Gitega central prison had before the yesterday’s incident 1547 prisoners, 1417 men, 110 women and 20 children. However, it has the capacity to shelter only 400 prisoners.