At least, 75 inmates have lost their lives in three prisons in Ecuador after riots broke out in the overcrowded prisons, AFP reports.
The riot, which was blamed on rival gangs happened on Tuesday.
Among the roughly 38,000 inmates across prisons in Ecuador, confrontations among criminal groups often result in riots. In December, riots spanning several facilities caused 11 deaths.
President Lenín Moreno declared the national prison system in a state of emergency and ordered increased security measures.
“As a result of the violent riots carried out today among gangs in three of the country’s prisons, I have ordered the Ministry of Defense to exercise strict gun, ammunition and explosives control in the surrounding areas of correctional facilities,” Moreno said on Twitter.
Earlier, the president said he had “authorised the use of force in a progressive way to guarantee the safety of citizens in confinement.”
As security forces battled to regain control, concerned family members of inmates have reportedly gathered outside prisons seeking information
Daniela Soria, 29, one of about 40 women outside the Guayaquil prison told AFP that, “We want the death list given to us. We know that the problems are not over because everyone there has a phone and my husband doesn’t call me.
Although several police officers were also injured, no deaths have been reported among security personnel, Edmundo Moncayo, director of the government’s SNAI prisons management body said.
The prison authority described fierce fighting between organised gangs that go by names such as Los Pipos, Los Lobos and Tigrones. They rely on drug trafficking and operate their criminal enterprises from prison.
Police commander Patricio Carrillo described the situation as “critical,” while Interior Minister Patricio Pazmino created a centralised command post to respond to what he said was “concerted action by criminal organizations to generate violence in penitentiary centres.”