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27 October 2005
AMSTERDAM — Eleven inmates held at a detention centre at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam died on overnight while 15 others were injured.
It was one of the most catastrophic fires the Netherlands has experienced in decades.
Police are still looking for escaped detainees. Three escapees have been arrested, but police are uncertain how many are still on the run.
Some 43 people were in the wing that caught fire shortly after midnight on Wednesday night and those confirmed dead were prisoners, most of whom were drug couriers and illegal immigrants. The injured included firefighters and police.
Problems trying to evacuate the detainees arose because cells had to be opened manually. Suffocating detainees kicked and screamed to be let out.
One inmate told Dutch media that guards had initially ignored their warnings of a fire.
"They didn't open the door. They kept us locked up. Our throats started hurting. We were kicking and screaming," BBC quoted the prisoner saying.
Public prosecution spokesman Martin Bruinsma told AFP news agency that emergency services acted "very quickly", but confirmed that cell doors could only be opened manually, one at a time.
The fire was not contained for several hours. There were about 350 people being held in the detention centre when the blaze erupted.
[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2005]
Subject: Dutch news
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