World Bulletin / News Desk
An Australian prison west of Melbourne remained under lockdown Wednesday after heavily-armed officers with pepper spray and police dogs ended a 15-hour riot believed to have been sparked by a cigarette ban.
The government of southeast Victoria state confirmed that the Metropolitan Remand Centre in Ravenhall was brought back under control at 3 a.m. (1800GMT) after officers dealt with a holdout group of around 50 prisoners.
The riot that began after noon Tuesday had seen up to 300 inmates attack prison guards, light fires, ram an exit door and access a control room, The Age reported.
A fence separating rival outlaw motorcycle gangs was also torn down, while a tractor was hijacked and a golf-buggy thrown into a bonfire as smoke could be seen above the facility.
The riot took place before a statewide smoking ban at 13 prisons went into effect Wednesday, after canteens stopped selling cigarettes June 12.
One police officer required treatment for exposure to pepper spray while three prison staff suffered minor injuries, according to The Australian.
Five prisoners were hospitalized after sustaining wounds -- two with dog bites and one with a suspected broken jaw.
Jan Shuard, corrections Victoria commissioner, said Wednesday that the riot was among the worst in the state's history.
"There is no threat to community safety," The Age quoted her as saying. "As part of our response where there is an incident at one of our prisons it is a natural response that we will secure the rest of our prisons.”
She added that the smoking ban would remain despite concerns of further incidents.
Stephen Leane, Victoria police assistant commissioner, said the inmates involved would be held responsible as detectives would “review the footage and take statements from those prisoners who may wish to make statements”.
“We’ll continue to do those investigations and hold those who caused the damage, and started the riot and maybe assaulted other people, accountable,” he stressed.
A smoking ban at prisons had been adopted by northeast Queensland in 2013, after which the state experienced a short-term increase in attacks against guards, according to The Age.
Meanwhile, New South Wales to the north of Victoria is set to introduce a smoking ban in correctional facilities next month.
Peter Severin, commissioner of the state’s corrective services, told news broadcaster ABC that he would request a briefing from his counterparts in Victoria in an attempt to prevent similar incidents.
“I want to ask what were the issues that caused it to be so extensive as it seems to have been,” he said.
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