London Theaters Checked After 88 Hurt in Ceiling CollapseThomas Penny and Svenja O’Donnell
Checks were carried out today on historic theaters in London’s West End entertainment district 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.
“Our teams have been on site at the Apollo Theatre last night and again this morning and will remain on site until all checks are complete,” Nickie Aiken, Westminster City Council’s cabinet member for community protection, said in an e-mailed statement. “We have confirmed today with the Society of London Theatre that all theaters’ safety checks are up to date. However, as a precaution, all historic theater are carrying out further safety checks today.”
Performances at the theater were canceled through Jan. 4, the Apollo’s owner, Nimax Theatres Ltd., said on its website.
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 last night. “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.”
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.”
London Mayor Boris Johnson praised the emergency services for their rapid response to the incident in “trying and confused circumstances.”
“The coordination between the Metropolitan Police, the London Ambulance Service and the London Fire Brigade was exemplary,” he said in a statement.