Haiti’s national prison on fire as chaos continues in Caribbean nation

Haiti’s national penitentiary is on fire after a blaze broke out in the building on Thursday morning, according to Reuters. A video posted to social media reportedly showed black smoke coming out of the facility.

It’s unclear if the fire is connected to the ongoing civil unrest, if any people were inside the prison or what caused the blaze.

Gangs stormed the facility earlier this month and set thousands of inmates free, causing the country’s officials to initiate a state of emergency. Earlier this week, the country’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry resigned from his post after gangs forced him out of the country citing the lack of general elections. The last election in Haiti was eight years ago.

The former prime minister has been taking shelter in Puerto Rico after he was denied entry to the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.

Mr Henry was the longest person to serve in his position since he took power in 2021 following the death of Haiti President Jovenel Moïse. Earlier this month, the gangs began attacking different areas of Port-Au-Prince, the country’s capital, including the airport and sea port.

International leaders are working to determine a transitional government now that Mr Henry has stepped down. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with a trade bloc in Jamaica this week to figure out next steps for the country, which involve replacing Mr Henry.

The man who appears to be in charge of the country’s gangs, Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier, had a stern message for politicians who chose to join the transitional council.

“Don’t you have any shame?” said Cherizier, according to Reuters. “You have taken the country where it is today. You have no idea what will happen.”

He added: “I’ll know if your kids are in Haiti, if your wives are in Haiti ... if your husbands are in Haiti... If you’re gonna run the country all your family ought to be there.”

An additional 15, 000 people have been displaced since the attacks started, the UN’s World Food Programme Director Jean-Martin Bauer said at a Wednesday news conference. He added that the organisation is unable to bring food into the country but has control of warehouses with supplies.

Some of the country’s residents are cutting down on meals or selling their livestock to survive and buy food.