The Minister for Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, Seraphine Mukantabana, has asked prisons officials to review their electrical installations as a precaution against fire incidents.
The minister was speaking, yesterday, after handing over an assortment of materials worth about Rwf4.5 million to inmates whose personal effects were burnt in Sunday’s fire at Nyarugenge Prison.
Mukantabana noted that some prisons are old and were built without considerations of fire safety or with materials that may have worn out by now.
“We ask that the power installations get worked on,” she said, adding that prisons, like any other public places, should have safety measure in place to avoid fire outbreaks.
“In a bid to prevent fire incidences, new facilities should be built in such a way that it prevents the fires we have previously experienced in prisons,” she said.
The Commissioner-General of Rwanda Correctional Service (RCS), George Rwigamba, said although investigations are still underway, preliminary findings point to a short circuit.
Responding to concerns of burned dossiers raised by some inmates, Rwigamba said that RCS has their copies both in file and digital storage, which the inmates can access anytime they want.
The affected inmates appreciated the support from the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, which included blanket, utensils and mats. They are, however, in need of mattresses.
The Nyarugenge Prison, also known as 1930, holds 3,127 inmates. The inmates are set to relocate to Mageragere Prison starting February, next year, according to the Ministry of Justice.
According to the latest figures, at least 170 inmates lost personal effects in the Christmas Day fire.
Three inmates were injured during evacuation process on Sunday. Two of them were attended to from within the prison. The other sustained a head injury and was taken to University Central Hospital of Kigali for further treatment.
How authorities responded
Realising that a number of fire outbreaks occurred across the country destroying buildings, shops and prisons, largely in July, 2014, a taskforce comprising Police, Rwanda Energy Group, Rwanda Housing Authority and the Ministry of Infrastructure was created to investigate the possible causes.
According to the taskforce report, the fires were a result of illegal power installations and in-house malpractices in the use of electricity.
Figures from RCS show that there are about 52,926 inmates in 15 prisons in the country.
PREVIOUS FIRE INCIDENTS
June 3, 2014: Fire gutted Muhanga Prison, which was accommodating some 5,900 inmates, resulting in the relocation of inmates, some to Mpanga Prison in Nyanza District, and Huye Prison.
July 7, 2014: Fire broke out at Rubavu Prison, leaving six inmates dead and over 60 injured.