At least 75 inmates died on Tuesday and several were injured in riots blamed on gang rivalry at three jails in Ecuador’s overcrowded prison system, authorities said.
As security forces battled to regain control, distraught family members waited desperately for news outside the prison in the country’s western port city of Guayaquil, where officials said 21 died.
Another 33 died at the prison in Cuenca in the south and eight in Latacunga in the center of the South American country, according to Edmundo Moncayo, director of the government’s SNAI prisons management body.
“We want the death list given to us,” said Daniela Soria, 29, one of about 40 women outside the Guayaquil prison, many of them in tears.
“We know that the problems are not over because everyone there has a phone and my husband doesn’t call me.”
Earlier, she received a WhatsApp voice message from her husband, Ricardo.
“They are going to kill me, get me out of here!” he could be heard exclaiming, the last she heard from him.
Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno, attributed the riots on Twitter to “criminal organizations” engaged in “simultaneous acts of violence in several prisons.”
The military was deployed to quell the uprising.
The public defender’s office, an entity akin to an ombudsman set up to defend human rights, called the violence “an unprecedented massacre” and expressed “concern over the lack of security in the country, which is reflected in the increase in crime and violence inside these prison facilities.”