Smoking ban seems cause of 15-hour Australian prison riot

Australian authorities on Wednesday ended a 15-hour prison riot involving up to 300 inmates in Melbourne suspected to have been triggered by a ban on smoking.

Rioters armed with pieces of wood lit fires in buildings, broke down an internal wall and smashed windows during the chaos, forcing 200 staff to evacuate, officials said. Riot police armed with batons and shields, dog squad units and critical incident officers with body armor and tear gas were sent to quell the riot.

Five prisoners required medical treatment for injuries including a broken jaw and dog bites following the riot at the Melbourne Remand Centre that ended around 3 a.m. local time ( 17:00 GMT Tuesday), Corrections Minister Wade Noonan said. The inmates have been transferred to other prisons while repairs begin, he said.

One prison officer required treatment for exposure to pepper spray and another three sustained minor injuries that were not the result of direct interaction with inmates, the Victoria state prison department said.

"I am deeply relieved that no-one was seriously injured," Noonan told reporters. "This criminal behavior will not be tolerated."

Corrections Commissioner Jan Shuard said prisons across Victoria would remain locked down to avoid more riots as a statewide tobacco ban took effect in prisons on Wednesday.

"It is probably likely that the smoking ban is at the heart at why the prisoners caused such a disruption, but we don't know that for sure yet," Shuard told reporters.

All Australian states and territories except one have banned smoking or plan to ban smoking in their prisons. Western Australia state will continue to allow smoking for fear of the dangers such a ban could create within prisons.