At least 68 people were killed after rioting and fire broke out in the cells of a Venezuelan police station in the central city of Valencia on Wednesday.
It started after the prisoners set fire to mattresses in an attempt to break out of jails.
Families of the deceased who were waiting outside the police station were dispersed with tear gas without any information from the authorities until late in the evening.
“I don’t know if my son is dead or alive!” cried Aida Parra, who she last saw her son a day before when she delivered him food. “They haven’t told me anything,” she said.
Valencia is situated 160 kilometers west of Caracas.
The Chief Prosecutor Tarek William Saab tweeted, “The State Prosecutor’s office guarantees to deepen investigations to immediately clarify what happened in these painful events that have left dozens of Venezuelan families in mourning.”
Prisons in Venezuela are notoriously overcrowded, filled with drugs and weapons. Such riots are common.
State official Jesus Santander said the state of Carabobo was in mourning after the incident in the city of Valencia. Forensic doctors are determining the number of fatalities.
A policeman was shot in the leg and was in stable condition and firefighters had extinguished the flames, he added.
Prisons in Venezuela are lawless for decades. The prisoners often openly wield machine guns and grenades, use drugs and leave guards powerless.
“There are people who are inside those dungeons and the authorities do not know they exist because they do not dare to enter,” said Humberto Prado, a local prison rights activist.