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90 hurt as ceiling of theater collapses

Britain Theater Collapse

LONDON – Emergency services said nearly 90 people were injured Thursday when part of the ceiling collapsed during a performance at a packed London theater, bringing the city’s West End entertainment district to a standstill.

The audience was showered with masonry and debris following the incident at the Apollo Theater, where about 720 people, including many families, were watching the hugely popular play “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.”

Emergency services said 88 people were injured. They described 81 as “walking wounded,” many with head injuries, while seven others were taken to hospital with more serious injuries.

Nick Harding from the London Fire Brigade said a section of ornate plaster ceiling, measuring about 10 meters (33 feet) by 10 meters, had fallen onto the audience watching the evening show.

“The ceiling took parts of the balconies down with it,” he said. “Everyone is out of the building and everyone is safe,” he added, confirming there had been no fatalities.

He said it was too early to speculate about the cause but police said there was no suggestion that it was the result of any deliberate act or attack.

There was no indication either that heavy storms earlier in the evening were to blame and investigations would continue through the night, Harding said.

Witnesses said they saw the ceiling in the four-story auditorium suddenly collapse during the performance, creating panic when those inside realized it was not part of the play.

“We saw the ceiling give way and it just dropped down onto the stalls. There was dust everywhere and people were screaming,” Steve George, 29, who was sitting in seats at the top of the theater, said.

“I have no idea how many people would have been injured,” added George, a cinema manager who had taken his wife Hannah to the show for a birth anniversary treat.

“It became like a black mist with people walking over me,” added Michelle Chew, another member of the audience. (Reuters)