An hour-long prison riot involving up to 50 inmates was triggered by a disagreement over making a grilled cheese sandwich.

Officers wearing protective gear looked on in horror as the men from rival gangs charged around hurling chairs and using mop sticks and even knives to strike each other. One prisoner repeatedly threw cups of hot water over people.

Guards at New York City’s Rikers Island Prison have been criticised for standing back and not breaking up the wild fight as people got injured.

Staffing at the correction facility has been cut by 20 per cent over the last decade and there were not enough officers to step in and break up the fight, according to a guards’ spokesman.

Speaking to ABC News, which caught the riot on film, Norman Seabrook, president of the guards’ union,  Correction Officers Benevolent Association, said: ‘The only thing they could possibly do at this point is watch… because going down there, they’re subjected to violence that they’re turning on each other, and then they turn on us. Which they’ve done already.’

‘So it clearly shows that there is not enough staff in the department and the management in the department has not trained correction officers properly in how to deal with these types of situations.’

During the video, men are seen storming around an area in the centre of the George R. Vierno department. They are yelling. Most are in the main hall where chairs are constantly being picked up and hurled at each other.

In the distance, down some stairs, another group can be seen throwing things back, anything.

Around them, men on an upper gangway also lob down chairs, some hitting those in the main hall.

To begin with, the filming is taking place at the back of the hall, behind a number of officers kitted out in riot gear.

But as the violence escalates the officers and the cameraman retreat to the safety of another room and watch on from behind a glass wall.

One guard is heard saying the fight has already been going on for half and hour.

The New York Daily News said 11 inmates were injured–some serious with stab wounds. One officer also sustained injuries.

The news service said two gangs were involved in the fighting: members of the Trinitarians, a Dominican gang, and their rival Crips.

The Trinitarians were allegedly angry that the Crips were not letting them use a hot plate to cook grilled cheese sandwiches and the fight broke out at around 9.20pm on Wednesday.

It finally cooled down after 10pm, when the mob calmed down and many needed medical attention.

According to ABC News, 32 inmates were disciplined; some were criminally charged.

The Correction Department told ABC: ‘There is every indication that this situation could have been handled differently and that this incident went on far too long. Every issue will be addressed to prevent a reoccurrence.’

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