Rioting inmates caused heavy damage to a low-security prison Saturday, smashing windows and setting fires that engulfed buildings and spewed clouds of black smoke.
Fires burned into the afternoon at Ford open prison following disturbances that broke out at around midnight after inmates rebelled against attempts to force them to take breathalyzer tests on New Year’s Eve. An official of the prison officers union said a large amount of illicit alcohol had been found in at the lockup.
Officials said the fires had been contained by 4 p.m. (1600 GMT), some 16 hours after the disturbance began.
Prisons Minister Crispin Blunt said 150 prisoners were being confined because they were involved in the disturbances or because their normal accommodation had been damaged.
Mark Freeman, deputy general secretary of the Prison Officers Association, said six ringleaders of the violence had been identified. Three were detained, while three others were hiding among other inmates, Freeman said.
ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast
A top ally of the man widely recognized as Ivory Coast’s president said incumbent Laurent Gbagbo is using stalling tactics to stay in power and urged the international community on Saturday to intervene with “legitimate force” to remove him.
Meanwhile, Gbagbo supporters who were called on to remove Alassane Ouattara from the Golf Hotel on New Year’s morning failed to materialize as United Nations Bangladeshi riot police guarded the hotel’s entryway in full crowd-control attire.
Ouattara’s Prime Minister, Guillaume Soro, told The Associated Press on Saturday that Gbagbo would only leave power by force and that the international community will have to intervene to protect democracy in Africa. He dismissed Gbagbo’s offer to invite an international investigation into the country as a delay tactic.
“It was this same type of distracting proposition that he used to hold on for five years without an election,” Soro said. “Enough is enough. Mr Gbagbo must leave power.”
A Russian passenger jet carrying 124 people caught fire as it taxied down a snowy runway in Siberia and then exploded Saturday, killing three people and injuring 43, including six who were badly burned, officials said.
Most of the passengers and crew were evacuated before the explosion, though people on board described a chaotic scene as the burning plane filled with thick, black smoke and panicked passengers climbed over one another to rush through flames to escape.
Emergency services spokesman Vadim Grebennikov said the fire, which began in one of the engines as the plane taxied for takeoff, caused a powerful blast that destroyed the Tu-154 aircraft and spread flames across 1,000 square meters (11,000 square feet).
Russian television showed video taken with a mobile telephone of the burning plane, its center a giant fireball. All that remained afterward was the tail section and part of a wing.
Grebennikov said 10 people were seriously injured, including six who were badly burned and four who suffered broken bones or other trauma.
Police say 10 people have been killed in a stampede during the early hours of New Year’s Day at a tavern in a South African township.
Police spokeswoman Adele Myburgh told The Associated Press that police Saturday could not confirm the cause of the stampede at a bar in the Ipelegeng township in the largely rural North West province.
Myburgh said the deceased have not been formally identified.
Provincial safety officials suspect some of those killed were below the country’s 18-year-old legal drinking age, and urged police to investigate safety precautions taken by the tavern owner.
Compiled from wire reports