Foreign experts on Friday probed a fire in a jail in the Central American nation of Honduras which left 356 dead this week, as questions lingered about the role of the authorities in the disaster.
Three days after the blaze swept through the overcrowded Comayagua jail -- which had held double its capacity with 852 inmates -- the cause of the fire was still unclear.
A US team from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) arrived late Thursday and Chilean experts also combed the jail.
The death toll from one of the world's worst prison catastrophes rose by one to 356 Friday, after an inmate died in hospital.
Around sixty percent of prisoners in Comayagua had not yet been sentenced.
In the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, exhausted families waited for their relatives' bodies, kept at a distance due to a strong odor from the morgue. Only 15 bodies had been identified Friday, when a few burials began.
"They told me that it would be difficult to give me my brother's body because it is in a bad state, but I'll stay here until they've done it," said Lindolfo Hernandez. His brother, jailed for 10 years for rape, had been due to be released in just two months.
Honduran President Porfirio Lobo suspended top officials from the country's prison system and called for foreign aid with investigations, amid accusations that authorities had been overcome by the scale of the disaster.
Rights groups and witnesses questioned the role of the guards and the authorities, suggesting negligence or even premeditation.
The Committee for the Defense of Human Rights said in a statement that firefighters had arrived too late, the prison director was absent and the guards failed to open cell doors to save lives.
The Committee of Families of Missing Prisoners expressed concern about a complaint from a non-identified prisoner who told local media that the fire was started by police to cover up a planned escape.
National police spokesman Hector Ivan Mejia ruled out that suggestion, and said that no prisoners had escaped.
Leftist opposition parties blamed the blaze on "criminal negligence."
Some 500 inmates who survived the fire remained inside the jail, in a wing which was not affected.
"I don't want to stay in this prison," said Marco Valladares, who communicated with his wife by cell phone from inside the jail. "It's cursed. We knew for a long time that the fire would happen."
Another survivor, Hector Martinez, said: "The facilities are damaged. I'm afraid."
Honduras, which has the world's highest murder rate -- 80 per 100,000 people according to the United Nations -- has 24 detention centers with a capacity of 8,000. The prison population is around 13,000.
Source: AFP Global Edition