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HALF OF RIOT-DEVASTATED PRISON IS BACK UNDER GUARDS’ CONTROL

SHARE HALF OF RIOT-DEVASTATED PRISON IS BACK UNDER GUARDS’ CONTROL

Guards regained control Monday of half a 19th-century prison devastated by hundreds of prisoners who set fires and smashed windows in rioting that left 47 guards and prisoners injured.

The medium-security Strangeways prison - one of Europe's most crowded - looked like the scene of a bombing after Sunday's mayhem, said Ivor Serle, a chapter chairman of the Prison Officers' Association.Inmates were still on the roof at daybreak. The Home Office said prisoners continued to surrender throughout the night and by late morning only 133 inmates remained on the loose.

Serle said inmates still controlled five of the prison's 10 wings.

"The prison is wrecked inside and will have to be virtually rebuilt," he said. "It is like a building that has been blitzed."

The Home Office said most of the prison's 1,660 inmates had turned themselves over to authorities Monday. All guards were accounted for and no hostages taken. Serle said 1,300 prisoners were moved to other prisons and another 300 were awaiting placement.

"The riot is the worst prison disturbance this century," said a Labor Party spokesman, Barry Sheerman. "Strangeways is a ghastly place, and conditions there are very difficult for the inmates and the staff."

There was no clear indication of what caused the rioting, which began during Sunday morning service in the prison chapel when inmates grabbed keys from guards and used them to gain access to large areas of the facility.

Initially, police managed only to reach the chapel, evacuating the injured using plastic shields to protect them from roof tiles hurled by prisoners.

David Evans, of the Prison Officers' Association, described the prison as a "war zone." He said injured guards taken from the prison said some prisoners were killed. "I do not know how many, but there have been people lying prostrate and not moving for hours," he said.

Firefighters working under police protection brought under control fires set Sunday in the chapel and a gymnasium, but smoke still billowed from one corner of the building.

A police helicopter circling overhead played its searchlight on the prison roof, where a half dozen prisoners could be seen. On Sunday, about 80 men had stripped roof tiles, hurling them at crowds below. Some prisoners wore peaked caps and coats taken from guards. Others were masked.