Some 81 persons injured
LONDON — The venue in Shaftesbury Avenue was packed for a performance of The Curious Incident Of The Dog in the Night-Time.
Eyewitnesses heard “a crackling” noise before the collapse at about 20:15 GMT. Theatre-goers left covered in debris.
The Apollo’s owner described it as a “shocking and upsetting” incident and said an investigation was under way.
A spokesman for the company, Nimax Theatres, said “thoughts are with the audience and staff”.
‘Swift and effective’
A total of 58 people were taken to hospital but there were no life-threatening injuries.
Ch Supt Paul Rickett, who is in charge of policing in London’s City of Westminster, said: “All of the emergency services responded to this incident using tried and tested systems that we have for working together. That response has been swift and effective.
“Officers remain at the scene tonight and will do for the coming hours. We thank the public for their support and patience.
“We’d ask those who are out and about in the West End area tonight to stay away from the area so we can continue our work.”
The London Ambulance Service said 25 ambulance crews and an air ambulance attended the scene.
Incident commander Maria Smith, who was one of the first on scene, said: “When I arrived it was dark and extremely dusty and people were lying on the floor of the theatre.
“We very quickly set up a casualty clearing area in the foyer of the theatre and the walking wounded were assessed and treated there for injuries such as cuts and grazes, breathing problems and head injuries.
London Fire Brigade said its “search is now complete” and the theatre has been sealed off.
Eight fire engines and more than 50 firefighters attended the incident in London’s busy West End theatre district, along with hundreds of police officers.
The Apollo’s ornate plasterwork ceiling collapsed and brought down part of the lighting rig, it said.
In a media briefing, the fire brigade said its officers inspected the theatre’s roof via an aerial ladder platform that had been raised above the building.
It said it did not believe scaffolding on an adjacent building had anything to do with the incident.
Nick Harding from London Fire Brigade said: “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… 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.”
He added: “In my time as a fire officer I’ve never seen an incident like this.”
Firefighters said the theatre had been almost full and 720 people were watching the performance.
The Met Police said more than 40 walking wounded were treated at the nearby Gielgud Theatre, while three London buses were used to transport others to hospitals.
Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust said 34 adults and five children were being treated at the accident and emergency department at St Thomas’ Hospital.
The majority had cuts and bruises, and a small number had fractures. The three most serious cases had injuries to the neck and back, or head.
The trust said at this stage there were no life-threatening injuries.
In a statement it said: “We have had a fantastic response from staff – both already on-site and those who came in from home – to help.”
Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: “I’ve been updated regularly on the Apollo incident. I’m grateful for the fast work of the emergency services in helping the injured.”
A spokesman for London Mayor Boris Johnson said: “He has spoken to the Met Police Commissioner and is liaising with the relevant agencies. His thoughts and prayers are with those involved in what is clearly a very serious incident.”
Mark Haddon, author of the book on which the play is based, tweeted: “It’s been horrifying sitting here watching what has been happening at the Apollo this evening. I’m hugely relieved that no-one has died.
“I hope that those who were seriously injured are OK. I’m sorry, too, that so many people went through such a terrifying experience.”