New Delhi: At least 57 inmates were killed on Monday with 16 of them beheaded during a bloody clash between rival factions inside a prison in the northern Brazilian state of Para, authorities said. Also Read - Embarrassing! Brazilian Senator Caught Hiding Money 'Between Buttocks' During Corruption Probe

The disturbance at the prison in Altamira, 850km (528mi) from Belem, the state capital, lasted for more than five hours and was finally brought under control by the combined efforts of several different law enforcement agencies, the Efe news reported. Also Read - National Security Advisors of BRICS Nations to Hold Virtual Meeting on Thursday

Sixteen of the dead were decapitated, while the other 41 died of smoke inhalation after one of the factions set fire to a cell-block. Also Read - With Spike of Over 90,000 Cases, India's Tally Crosses 42 Lakh-mark; Second Highest After US | Key Points

“It was a localised attack, aimed at exterminating members of a rival faction. They (the aggressors) entered, killed and started a fire,” the head of the state prison system, Jarbas Vasconcelos, told the press.

As inmates were sitting down to breakfast in one part of the prison, attackers from another cell-block burst in and set upon their enemies with “homemade weapons”, the prison service said.

Two guards taken hostage during the assault were freed later unharmed, while two other people were hospitalised with injuries.

Relatives of some inmates at Altamira mounted protests at the end of the May to press prison officials to transfer members of one of the rival factions to other facilities to avoid conflict.

But according to Vasconcelos, authorities saw no signs of trouble ahead of Monday’s eruption.

Though the prison service says that the Altamira penitentiary was built to hold 200 prisoners and currently holds 311, a report from the National Council of Justice shows the facility is home to 343 prisoners – more than double its capacity of 163.

Brazil’s overcrowded prisons have been wracked by escalating violence since 2017. In May of this year, 55 inmates were killed in a span of less than 48 hours at four penitentiaries in the Amazonian city of Manaus.