LONDON – Hunks of plaster and dust rained down on a packed audience when the ceiling of a London theater partially collapsed Thursday night. More than 75 people were injured – seven seriously, authorities said.
The collapse at the Apollo Theatre took place around 8:15 p.m. during a performance of “The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time” at the height of the Christmas holiday season. Plaster and masonry from a section of the ceiling tumbled down, bringing parts of the theater’s balconies down with it onto the audience, police said.
More than 700 people were in the theater at the time, according to the London Fire Brigade.
Officials said most of the injured were “walking wounded” with upper-body injuries, and that all are conscious and breathing.
Police and fire officials said it was too soon to say what caused the partial collapse of the ceiling, but a full investigation is being carried out.
Dee Stephenson said she was seated near the stage and heard the main actor shout “watch out!”
“Then you could feel the debris literally coming down on you and then I got hit on the back by a large piece,” she told The Associated Press. “It was a complete dust curtain. You couldn’t see.”
Scott Daniels, an American tourist who lives in the Dallas area, said he’d managed to buy a last-minute ticket to the acclaimed production just before showtime.
“I was lucky to get one seat that they had left over,” he told The Associated Press. About 40 or 45 minutes into the show, he said, he started hearing noises – and screaming.
“I thought, maybe this is part of the play,” he said. “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.”
He said he made it out with “a couple scrapes,” though he saw others with more serious lacerations.
Dust-covered theatergoers, many with bandaged heads, were treated by dozens of emergency workers in the street outside the Apollo and at a nearby theater. Injuries ranged from head wounds to cuts and scrapes to breathing problems.
There were no fatalities and none of the injuries are believed to be life-threatening, officials added.