SAO PAULO – Police regained control on Sunday of the Alcaçuz state penitentiary in Nisia Floresta, a city in the northeastern Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Norte, where at least 30 inmates died in a riot, officials said.
A police special response unit entered the prison’s cellblocks and secured the facility, which was affected by a 14-hour riot, the Rio Grande do Norte Security Secretariat said.
Police regained control of the prison’s perimeter on Saturday night, then they secured the yards before entering the cellblocks on Sunday.
The Rio Grande do Norte Militarized Police told EFE that “at least 25” prisoners died in the prison, the largest penitentiary in the state, in the riot that began Saturday afternoon.
The Itep technical institute in the state confirmed to Globo television that 30 inmates died, although only 10 fatalities had originally been reported after the Militarized Police retook the prison peacefully.
Many of the dead had been hastily thrown into graves dug within the prison complex by other inmates and their bodies are only now being found by authorities.
The riot at the prison involved rival gangs of prisoners, following the pattern of the recent fights that have left more than 100 inmates dead in Brazil this year.
The Alcaçuz state penitentiary has a capacity of 620 but currently houses 1,150 inmates, the Justice Secretariat said.
The Rio Grande do Norte Prison Guards Union said Saturday that a vehicle approached the prison grounds before the riot and unidentified men passed firearms to inmates standing on a wall.
Brazilian officials have been dealing with a wave of violence at prisons since the start of 2017.
On Jan. 1, 56 inmates died in a fight at a prison in Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state.
A fight at a prison farm outside Manaus left four other inmates dead.
At least 33 inmates died in a riot at a prison in Boa Vista, the capital of Roraima state. Investigators found two other bodies buried at the Boa Vista prison, but the victims had been killed and buried before the riot.
Two inmates were murdered earlier this month at a prison in Paraiba.