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Dozens Killed in Mexico Prison Riot

Inmates stand on the rooftop of the Topo Chico prison as police guard the perimeters, after a riot broke out around midnight in Monterrey, Mexico, Feb. 11, 2016.

At least 52 people were killed when a riot and fire broke out at a prison in northeastern Mexico, officials said Thursday.

Nuevo Leon state governor Jaime Rodriguez said fighting erupted around midnight between inmates from rival factions at Topo Chico prison in Monterrey. He said the prisoners set fire to a storage area and that authorities brought the situation "under control" by 1:30 am local time.

Relatives of inmates at prison gathered outside, blocking a boulevard and demanding to know that their relatives were safe. Some shouted and cursed at the guards when they gave no answer, and others began throwing rocks at them.

Prison director Gregoria Salazar told relatives that fighting had broken out in two areas of the prison, though the areas holding women and elderly inmates were calm.

In a statement posted to Twitter, the Nuevo Leon state government ruled out a prison break.

The incident occurred just six days before Pope Francis is scheduled to visit another Mexican prison in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state.

Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission said in 2013 that the country’s prison system was marked by violence and corruption.

Penitentiaries across the country, which often house inmates from different drug gangs, have been notorious for massive prison breaks in recent years. In one of the worst incidents in 25 years, 44 inmates were killed in a 2012 massacre in Apodaca, Nuevo Leon. Later, three top prison officials and 26 guards were accused of helping prisoners to carry out a staged escape.