A rescue operation is under way after part of a balcony in the Apollo theatre in London’s West End collapsed during a performance, trapping people inside.
The collapse occurred during a performance of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time at about 8pm local time, and the theatre was almost full at the time.
Witnesses said they saw people being escorted out of the building, covered in dust and debris.
Halfway through the first half of the performance, part of the balcony started creaking before a section of the theatre collapsed. Audience members assumed the noise was part of the show.
London Fire Brigade have issues the following statement in relation to the incident:
The London Fire Brigade was called at 2014 to reports of a collapsed ceiling at a theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue in Soho. Eight fire engines and specialist rescue vehicles were called to the scene. Over fifty firefighters are at the scene and are working with colleagues from the Met Police and London Ambulance Service. Kingsland Station Manager Nick Harding is at the scene of the theatre incident. He said: “We believe around 720 people were in the theatre at the time. A section of the theatre’s ceiling collapsed onto the audience who were watching the show. The ceiling took parts of the balconies down with it. Firefighters worked really hard in very difficult conditions and I’d like to pay tribute to them. They rescued people from the theatre, made the area safe and then helped ambulance crews with the injured. Specialist urban search and rescue crews were also called to the scene to make sure no one was trapped. Fortunately all those who were trapped have been rescued and treated for injuries or taken to hospital. A number of people were injured and ambulance crews are working hard to look after them. The latest information is that there were around 80 walking wounded, many of whom had head injuries. Around five have been taken to hospital with more serious injuries. In my time as a fire officer I’ve never seen an incident like this. I imagine lots of people were out enjoying the show in the run-up to Christmas. My thoughts go out to all those affected.”
The Brigade’s specialist Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) advisors have offered structural advice and guidance to the theatre.
The Apollo Theatre is a Grade II listed building in London’s West End. Completed in February 1901, the theatre seats 755, and the balcony on the third tier is considered the steepest in London. It is not known whether it was this one which collapsed.
Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA