SAN JUAN – The death toll climbed to 17 as the situation at Guyana’s Georgetown Prison worsened on Friday, with inmates setting new fires and threatening to detonate a cooking-gas cylinder and a tank containing gasoline.
Speaking at a press conference with Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan, who earlier described the situation as the “worst prison riot in recent history,” Prison Superintendent Kevin Pilgrim said the deadly uprising at the overcrowded Camp Street facility began late Wednesday.
The proximate cause of the unrest in the prison, built for 600 but now housing approximately 984 inmates, was a two-hour search that netted 19 cellphones and a quantity of marijuana.
Inmates set mattresses on fire, leading to 17 deaths, mostly from burns and smoke inhalation.
Though Ramjattan told reporters Thursday that calm had been restored, firefighters rushed to the prison the following morning when the disturbances flared up again.
“The prisoners not only stoned security personnel but also hurled back tear-gas canisters at police who are trying desperately to bring the situation under control,” Pilgrim said Friday.
During a brief exchange with Police Commander Clifton Hicken, the rebellious inmates asked Ramjattan to come to the prison for talks.
President David Granger plans to name a three-member panel to investigate the riot at Guyana’s main detention facility.