QUITO, May 9 (Xinhua) -- The number of prisoners killed in a predawn prison riot Monday in Ecuador's north-central province of Pichincha climbed to 43, the national Prosecutor's Office confirmed.
"So far 43 inmates have died" as a result of the melee at the Regional Prison in the town of Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas, the agency said via Twitter.
According to preliminary reports, the incident occurred between 2:30 and 3:00 a.m. local time during an attempted escape by inmates.
Interior Minister Patricio Carrillo said earlier that the wounded were evacuated for medical treatment and the bodies of the deceased taken to the Santo Domingo Department of Forensic Medicine.
Following the riot, members of the National Police took control of the penitentiary.
Prison authorities blamed the outbreak of violence on the recent transfer of leaders of criminal rings to the La Roca maximum security prison in the southwest coastal city of Guayaquil.
Police will carry out a "general sweep" of the facility to uncover and confiscate weapons, and carry out a prison census, Carrillo said.
"The problems are absolutely recurrent. We are going to sweep up weapons today, we are going ... to identify the leaders to transfer them to the maximum security centers," Carrillo added.
Ecuador's prison system is in crisis due to constant clashes between gangs linked to drug trafficking organizations.
In 2021, the country registered a series of riots that left at least 331 inmates killed, marking the most violent penitentiary system in Latin America.