Seven inmates dead, 17 hurt after South Carolina prison incident

April 16 (Reuters) - Seven prison inmates were killed and 17 others were injured in an hours-long series of fights between inmates armed with improvised weapons at a prison in South Carolina, state officials said on Monday.

The Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville, South Carolina, about 40 miles (64 km) northeast of the state capital of Columbia, was secured at 2:55 a.m. EDT (0655 GMT), the state Corrections Department said on Twitter. The violence began at around 7:15 p.m. EST (2315 GMT) on Sunday night, spilling out over three housing units.

All seven deaths were the result of stabbing injuries, said Lee County Coroner Larry Logan.

"In prison, it's not like you have guns, or people are going to get run over," Longan said in a phone interview.

All prison staff and law enforcement officers were safe and accounted for, officials said on Twitter. The prison has 1,583 inmates, according to its website.

State data show there were 37 serious inmate assaults on prison employees last year, up from 21 in 2015.

It was one of the deadliest U.S. prison incidents in years. In 1993, nine inmates and one corrections officer died at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, according to local media.

One inmate died and eight were wounded in a September 2017 riot at a state penitentiary in San Luis Obispo, California. (Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington and Rich McKay in Atlanta Writing by Scott Malone Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Jeffrey Benkoe and Susan Thomas)