Coronavirus: At least 23 killed in Colombia prison riot

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EPA

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Prisons across the country were protesting against precarious health services and overcrowding

At least 23 people died in one of Bogotá's largest jails after prisoners tried to escape amid mounting tensions over the coronavirus.

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Colombian Justice Minister Margarita Cabello said 83 prisoners were injured during the tumult at La Modelo prison.

The escape attempt on Sunday comes when prisoners in prisons across the country protested overcrowding and poor health services during the coronavirus outbreak.

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The justice ministry is investigating.

Cabello said 32 prisoners and seven guards were in the hospital. Two guards are in a critical condition.

She said the violence was a coordinated plan with unrest reported in 13 of the country's prisons.

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Reuters

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More than 23 people were killed and 83 inmates were injured in La Modelo prison

Denying allegations of unsanitary conditions amid fears of a coronavirus leak, she said: "There is no health problem that would have caused this plan and these disorders.

"There is no infection, nor is there any prisoner or administrative or custodial employee who has a coronavirus."

A large number of relatives gathered outside the gates of La Modelo prison to await news from their loved ones. They said they heard of gunfire after security forces arrived.

Videos posted on social media showed prisoners setting fire to mattresses.

The country's 132 prisons have a capacity of 81,000 prisoners, but are home to more than 121,000 prisoners, according to data from the Ministry of Justice.

To date, there have been 231 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Colombia and two people have died.

The country is expected to begin quarantining across the country starting on Tuesday, with an expected duration of 19 days. This will restrict the movements of residents, with the exception of medical staff, security forces and pharmacy and supermarket personnel.

People over 70 were instructed to stay at home until the end of May.

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