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Intense fire destroys New Bell prison, Leaving 700 Inmates without Shelter

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Douala: Intense fire destroys New Bell prisonA fire disaster that occurred at the Douala Central Prison in the New Bell neighborhood on Saturday, has left over 700 inmates without shelter, reports say.

The inferno, the cause of which is yet to be determined, lasted for some two hours and consumed six overcrowded prison cells, the prison kitchen and the prison’s recreational hall. No life was lost.

Dieudonne Engogang Mintsang, registrar of the prison said four seriously injured inmates were rushed to the Laquintini Hospital. Two of them who suffered first degree burns have been transferred to the Douala referral hospital.Fire at the New Bell Prison in Douala

Authorities of the prison confirmed that the VIP ward; where Forjindam and other high profile prisoners are being caged, was not affected by the fire, like was the case on Sunday September 2, 2012.

Though the cause of the fire has not yet been ascertained, witnesses say the fire erupted from the prison’s kitchen in Quarter 16 known as Quartier Regime, consumed part of the registrar’s office before spreading to Quartier Texas. The total cost of Saturday’s damage is yet to be declared by prison authorities.

It took only the intervention of the army rescue unit and the fire fighting brigade of the Douala International Airport for the flames to be brought to a halt.

Meanwhile, Nasiri Paul Bea, Senior Divisional Officer for Wouri, who was on the scene, ordered for the deployment of troops to avert any possible jail break. Soldiers of the army’s infantry as well as public security police elements surrounded the prison which is located 500 meters from the central market. No inmate vamoosed, prison officials said.

It is the third time in less than 8years that the Douala Central Prison is being affected by fire. It was previously hit on Sunday September 2, 2012. Prior to that, fire had wreaked havoc on the detention facility in 2008. Human Rights activists have over the years raised concerns over the capacity of the prison vis-à-vis the number of inmates. The detention facility constructed in colonial times with a capacity of 800 inmates now contains over 4000 detainees.

We learnt the prison had been given a site in Japoma on the outskirts of Douala for new permanent structures but prison authorities kept on promising they will put up new buildings to no avail.




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