London Theaters Checked After 88 Hurt in Apollo Ceiling Collapse

By Thomas Penny | December 20, 2013

Checks will be carried out on historic theaters in London’s West End entertainment district today after 88 people were hurt when part of a ceiling collapsed during a performance last night.

Seven people were treated for “more serious” injuries and 81 were “walking wounded” after the incident at the 112-year- old Apollo Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue, the capital’s Metropolitan Police said in an e-mailed statement. There were no reports of fatalities.

“This appears to be an isolated incident, but we will continue to work with theaters throughout the day to ensure that all safety precautions are in place,” Nickie Aiken, Westminster City Council’s cabinet member for community protection, said in an e-mailed statement. “Historic theaters are required to undergo rigorous roof safety checks every three years.”

There was a “sudden collapse” at the Apollo after creaking sounds were heard from the roof, London Fire Brigade Deputy Assistant Commissioner Graham Ellis said. “Heavy, ornate plaster” fell from the ceiling onto upper and lower seating, he said. Emergency services were on the scene within three minutes of the collapse at about 8:15 p.m.

“All of a sudden, panic kind of took hold around the seats near where I was sitting,” a theatergoer named as Tom Chesshyre told BBC television. “This huge chunk of what looked like plaster from the very elaborate roof of the theater which we’d been admiring minutes earlier came plunging down.”

Blood, Bandages
More than 700 people were in the audience for the performance of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night- Time,” an award-winning production from the U.K.’s National Theatre. A bus was used to take some of the injured to a hospital, while others were treated at Gielgud Theatre, about a block away. Television pictures showed theatergoers with bloodied faces and heads bandaged.

About 60 police were dispatched to the scene. Authorities cordoned off Shaftesbury Avenue from Piccadilly Circus to Charing Cross Road and allowed only ambulances and police vehicles through.

“A district surveyor from Westminster City Council attended the site overnight and has declared that the roof is secure,” Aiken said. “We will not know the cause of the incident until all investigations have been completed but checks are ongoing.”

–With assistance from Matthew Campbell in London. Editors: Eddie Buckle, James Hertling

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