Thirteen inmates have been killed in a gang brawl at a Brazilian prison, the BBC reported Thursday
. Another 30 were injured in the fighting at Pedrinhas prison in San Luis, a city in Brazil’s northeastern Maranhao state.
Riot police say they have regained control at the prison and are combing through the facility for weapons.
Prison guards said rioting began after inmates were discovered digging an escape tunnel, according to the BBC.
When the guards tried to get to the cell in which the tunnel entrance was located, “the prisoners tried to fight them off," said Maranhao state security secretary Aluisio Mendes.
Prisoners set part of the prison ablaze, and rival gangs used the ensuing chaos to attack rivals and settle scores, authorities said.
Outside the prison, inmate relatives demanded information about the riot and pelted guards with stones. Local media reported that the relatives set fire to several buses.
Pedrinhas is notorious for its gang warfare. Earlier this month, three inmates were killed, including one who was decapitated, according to the BBC.
Brazilian prisons have long been plagued by guard violence against inmates. In August, a court sentenced 25 police officers to prison terms of 624 years each for killing 52 inmates in a Sao Paulo jail massacre more than two decades ago, the Los Angeles Times reported
Brazilian Minister of Justice Jose Eduardo Cardozo, said last year that Brazil had "a medieval prison system, which not only violates human rights [but] does not allow for the most important element of a penal sanction, which is social reintegration."
Officials say that recent prison construction has not kept up with the growth of the inmate population, making it difficult to improve conditions in Brazilian correctional facilities.
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