Thursday, October 27, 2005 Posted: 0849 GMT (1649 HKT)

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands -- Eleven people were killed and 15 others injured in a fire that broke out in a prison complex at Amsterdam's Schipol Airport, authorities said.

Video footage taken at the scene showed flames shooting from windows and thick smoke billowing from the building.

Authorities do not yet know how the fire started, airport spokesman Rob Stenacter said.

The identity or nationalities of the dead was not immediately known. Officials declined to respond to reports that the fire may have been set by one of the prisoners and that the cells were unsafe, The Associated Press reported.

"They were illegal aliens waiting to be extradited to their countries of origin," Immigration Service spokesman Martin Bruinsma told AP. "We are still busy trying to confirm their identities."

An unknown number of detainees escaped during the fire.

A prisoner told the Dutch television station NOS that guards initially did not take prisoners' warnings of a fire seriously and told them nothing was wrong.

"They didn't open the door. They kept us locked up. Our throats started hurting. We were kicking and screaming," said the detainee who was not identified.

Police were searching for an unknown number of escaped prisoners, the report said.

The large prison block is located on the east side of Europe's fourth largest airport and is surrounded by a 3-meter (10-foot) fence and barbed wire.

The fire broke out shortly after midnight and raged until 3 a.m., Dutch media reported.

Fire fighters and airport police were among the injured, according to the news reports. Four of those injured were hospitalized.

About 350 prisoners were being held in the complex when the fire broke out, AP reported. Some 43 were in the wing that caught fire. Prisoners were taken to other facilities in nearby cities or moved elsewhere within the complex, the reports said.

Helicopters were called in during the fire to track down possible escaped detainees, Dutch media reported.

Hundreds of cocaine smugglers, mostly from the Caribbean and Curacao, are detained at the airport every year, as are immigrants caught trying to enter the country illegally. Prison cell capacity was greatly expanded in 2002.