Video, Photos: Collapse at Central London Theater

Reported collapse at the Apollo Theater in central London

 

 
 
 

JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press | | Thursday, December 19, 2013

GALLERIES

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Collapse at London Theater

Between 20 to 40 people injured in central London.
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LONDON (AP) — An industry group sought to reassure theatergoers Friday that London's elegant but aging venues are safe after chunks of ornamental plaster fell from a ceiling of the Apollo Theatre, showering patrons with dust and debris and injuring 79 people.

One line of inquiry for investigators is whether a brief but intense rainstorm was a factor in Thursday's accident at the century-old building.

The Society of London Theatre said all theaters undergo "rigorous safety checks and inspections by independent experts, and incidents like last night are extremely rare."

"Our theaters entertain over 32,000 people in central London every night and all theaters take the safety of their audience, performers and staff very seriously," it said.

Witnesses have described chaos and panic as large chunks of plaster, wooden beams and dust rained down on the audience 45 minutes into a performance of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time."

"I thought, maybe this is part of the play," said Scott Daniels, an American tourist from the Dallas area. "All of a sudden, plaster starts raining down, huge hunks of plaster ... The lights went out and everything filled with dust — everybody was coughing and choking."

London Ambulance Service said Friday that it had treated 79 people, 56 of whom were taken to local hospitals in ambulances and two commandeered London buses. Of these, 47 were "walking wounded" with minor injuries, while nine "had suffered more serious injuries including head and back injuries."

Nimax Theatres, which owns the Apollo, described the incident as "shocking and upsetting."

Like many of London's West End theaters, the Apollo is more than a century old, built in 1901.

The Theatres Trust, which helps preserve Britain's historic playhouses, said theater plasterwork was inspected regularly and certified by independent experts.

Westminster Council, the local authority, said an investigation was underway and an initial structural assessment had found the building is secure.

The building remained cordoned off to the public Friday. The Society of London Theatre said performances of "Curious Incident" on Friday and Saturday had been canceled.

Marc Sinden, director of the documentary series "Great West End Theatres," said that despite the accident, London's theaters are extremely safe.

"These theaters have been around for a very long time, but they are looked after and regularly maintained. They are looked after daily," he said.

___

Jill Lawless can be reached at http://Twitter.com/JillLawless

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Collapse at London Theater

Gallery 1

Collapse at London Theater

Emergency services attend the scene at the Apollo Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue, central London, Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. A theater in central London partially collapsed Thursday night during a performance at the height of the Christmas season, with police saying there were "a number" of casualties. (AP Photo/PA, Dominic Lipinski)


Gallery 1

Collapse at London Theater

Emergency services attend the scene at the Apollo Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue, central London, Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. A theater in central London partially collapsed Thursday night during a performance at the height of the Christmas season, with police saying there were "a number" of casualties. (AP Photo/PA, Dominic Lipinski)


Gallery 1

Collapse at London Theater

This image taken from television shows emergency services evacuating a person on a stretcher following an incident at the Apollo Theatre, in London's Shaftesbury Avenue, Thursday evening, Dec. 19, 2013, during a performance at the height of the Christmas season, with police saying there were "a number" of casualties. It wasn't immediately clear if the roof, ceiling or balcony had collapsed during a performance. Police said they "are aware of a number of casualties," but had no further details. (AP Photo/Sky News)


Gallery 1

Collapse at London Theater

This image taken from television shows emergency services attending an incident at the Apollo Theatre, illuminated at rear right, in London's Shaftesbury Avenue, Thursday evening, Dec. 19, 2013, during a performance at the height of the Christmas season, with police saying there were "a number" of casualties. It wasn't immediately clear if the roof, ceiling or balcony collapsed during a performance. Police said they "are aware of a number of casualties," but had no further details. (AP Photo/Sky News)


Gallery 1

Collapse at London Theater

A woman stands bandaged and wearing a blanket given by emergency services following an incident at the Apollo Theatre, in London's Shaftesbury Avenue, Thursday evening, Dec. 19, 2013, during a performance at the height of the Christmas season, with police saying there were "a number" of casualties. It wasn't immediately clear if the roof, ceiling or balcony had collapsed during a performance. Police said they "are aware of a number of casualties," but had no further details. (AP Photo by Joel Ryan, Invision)


Gallery 1

Collapse at London Theater

A bandaged man comforts a woman following an incident at the Apollo Theatre, in London's Shaftesbury Avenue, Thursday evening, Dec. 19, 2013, during a performance , with police saying there were "a number" of casualties. It wasn't immediately clear if the roof, ceiling or balcony had collapsed. The London Fire Brigade said the theatre was almost full, with around 700 people watching the performance. A spokesman added: "It's thought between 20 and 40 people were injured." (AP Photo by Joel Ryan, Invision)



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