At least 18 people have been killed during a prison fight in northern Honduras amid a fire started by the rioters, authorities said.

Wielding guns, knives and machetes, inmates fought in a jail in San Pedro Sula, the country's second largest city known for textile manufacturing and a high rate of gang violence. A fire broke out during the fight, burning two prisoners to death.

The unrest came six weeks after a fire at another prison in Honduras killed 361 inmates.

National fire chief Alfonso Medina warned that the death toll could increase, saying one part of the prison was still under control of inmates who might have grenades.

Yair Mesa, police commissioner of San Pedro Sula, said the riot had been brought under control.

“The uprising has been put down without the need to fire shots,'' Mesa said by telephone from inside the prison.

He said most of the victims apparently died of burns or asphyxiation, but said the cause of death could not immediately be determined because the bodies were so badly burned.

One prisoner's head was cut off and tossed outside the prison during the riot.

San Pedro Sula is believed to be one of the most dangerous cities in a country that has the highest homicide rate in the world.

A fire at the San Pedro Sula prison in 2004 killed 107 inmates.

Thursday's uprising came a month and a half after Honduras' overcrowded prisons were hit by the worst prison fire in a century that killed 361 inmates.

In 2008, the latest year for which figures are available, Honduras' prison system had nearly 38 percent more prisoners than it was built to house, according to the London-based International Centre for Prison Studies.

Source: Agencies