At least 40 inmates were killed in a Mexico jail riot, officials said Sunday, just a few days after a massive prison fire in Honduras shone a spotlight on the horrors of the region's penal institutions.
The deaths occurred after clashes broke out overnight between rival gangs at Apodoca prison, some 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the northern Mexico city of Monterrey.
Families were gathering Sunday outside the institution, awaiting news of their loved ones in a desperate scene that saw some women pass out after having waited outside the prison gates since early morning.
"There are 40 confirmed dead," the prison's director, Gilberto Cesena, told reporters, adding that all of the bodies found so far have been in the prison's "Delta" cell block.
Meanwhile, Jorge Domene, a spokesman for the state corrections' system, told AFP, adding that the situation inside the prison was now calm and that forensic teams were working to identify the bodies.
Officials said the unrest broke out early Sunday in wings of the prison that had been holding 300 inmates. The complex overall holds some 3,000 inmates -- double its official capacity of 1,500.
Riots are common in Mexico's notoriously overcrowded prisons. It was the second deadly such brawl in recent months near Monterrey after seven inmates died and 12 were injured in a clash in October at Cadereyta prison.
The toll was approaching the total deaths in Monterrey's three main prisons last year, with records showing 50 prisoner deaths from executions, brawls, and suspected suicides.
Monterrey, an industrial hub and Mexico's third largest city, has seen an upsurge in violence in recent months blamed on fighting between the brutal Zetas drug gang and their former employers, the Gulf cartel. Members of both groups are in Apodoca prison.
The deadly riots come just days after a horrific blaze at a Honduran prison left 359 inmates dead and shone a spotlight on Latin America's overcrowded penitentiaries.
Only 30 bodies have so far been identified in the morgue in the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa, and just 16 have been returned to their families for burial.
Expert teams from the United States and Chile are helping the Honduran authorities with their investigations into the fire, the cause of which remains unclear.