Prison Riot Forces Evacuation of Guards and Staff in Australia

Prison Riot on Eve of Smoking Ban Forces Staff Evacuation 0:32

Teams of heavily-armed police were sent to quell a riot that broke out at a maximum-security prison in Australia on Tuesday.

The unrest at the Metropolitan Remand Centre near Melbourne erupted just one day before a strict smoking ban was due to come into force across all prisons in Victoria state.

The riot flared just after noon (10 p.m. ET Monday) and was ongoing more than seven hours later, a spokeswoman for the prison authority told NBC News.

Aerial footage from Australia’s Channel 7 News showed prisoners with covered faces lighting fires in the prison yard and using weapons to try to damage parts the facility, which is in the Melbourne suburb of Ravenhall.

Some of the inmates had managed to breach an inner perimeter, parts of the prison were on lockdown, and at least some of the guards and other staff had been evacuated, the spokeswoman said.

Video from the scene showed teams of law enforcement officers armed with heavy weapons and body armor arriving at the facility. The state-run Australian Broadcasting Corporation said 300 prisoners were involved.

The Corrections Victoria spokeswoman said that the prison authority was aware of speculation that the imminent smoking ban had prompted the riot but said any direct link was “just speculation."

The smoking ban will effectively force Victoria inmates to give up cigarettes.