RIO DE JANEIRO – At least eight inmates died Monday in a fight between rival gangs at a prison in Brazil’s Rondonia state, a day after a brawl at a penitentiary in the Amazonian state of Roraima left 10 inmates dead, officials said.
The inmates died from smoke inhalation at the Enio dos Santos Pinheiro prison in Porto Velho, the capital of Rondonia, located 3,300 kilometers (2,050 miles) northwest of Rio de Janeiro.
Two other prisoners were taken to a Porto Velho hospital with symptoms of asphyxia.
The riot, in which a number of cells were destroyed, started due to the transfer to the prison of an inmate known to be the leader of a gang that is the rival of the one that controls the penitentiary, unconfirmed reports said.
Police took control of the facility at dawn when inmates, armed with sticks, iron pikes and other weapons, attempted a mass escape.
Members of the Red Command, a gang from Rio de Janeiro, and their rivals from the First Capital Command, or PCC, a criminal organization based in Sao Paulo, fought inside the prison.
“The incident began at dawn when the two groups started fighting, and one of the gangs set mattresses and other objects on fire in front of the cell where the eight fatal victims were locked,” warden Jobson Bandeira said.
State officials, meanwhile, revised the death toll from Sunday’s fight at the penitentiary in Roraima downward from 25 to 10.
Police only found 10 bodies inside the prison once the facility was secured, Roraima’s public safety secretary, Uziel Castro, said in a press conference.
Six inmates were wounded in the fight between rival gangs and are being treated at a hospital in Boa Vista, the capital of Roraima, Castro said.
Roraima is located in the Brazilian Amazon on the border with Venezuela and Guyana.
The fight involved Red Command and PCC members, Castro said, adding that similar incidents have occurred at other prisons in the Amazon region, mainly in Para and Rondonia states.
“What happened is a reflection of what’s occurring across the country. The orders to kill came from Rio de Janeiro. We were caught by surprise because we didn’t expect a conflict like this to happen on visiting day,” Castro said.
Nearly 100 visiting relatives were trapped inside the prison for several hours until police rescued them.