Investigators were seeking yesterday to establish why the ceiling of a packed London theater collapsed, injuring 76 people and coating terrified audience members with rubble.
A sell-out crowd of about 720 people was in the Apollo Theatre in Soho on Thursday night when ornate masonry and rigging fell about five stories onto their heads.
Witnesses said they heard creaking noises in the 112-year-old theater, but thought it was part of the show they were watching, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.
Then debris and dust filled the air, sending coughing, terrified theatergoers — many of them families enjoying a pre-Christmas treat — fleeing for the exits.
Rescuers commandeered three iconic red London double-decker buses to transport the wounded, while the city’s normally tourist-thronged “Theatreland” was brought to a stunned halt.
Ambulance staff treated 76 patients, taking 58 to hospital, where seven were described as having serious, but not life-threatening injuries.
A surveyor examined the theater overnight and said the roof was secure, but investigations are now being carried out by the local authority to establish what happened.
The abnormally heavy rain that fell in the hour before the ceiling collapsed shortly after 8pm is likely to be one line of inquiry.
“We will not know the cause of the incident until all investigations have been completed, but checks are ongoing,” Councilor Nickie Aiken of Westminster Council said.
“This appears to be an isolated incident, but we will continue to work with theaters throughout the day to ensure that all safety precautions are in place,” she said.
All historic theaters are required to undergo rigorous safety checks on their roofs every three years, she added.
Witnesses told of terror inside the Edwardian-era theater, which has three tiers of balconies, the uppermost of which is said to be the steepest in London.
“A section of the theater’s ceiling collapsed onto the audience who were watching the show. The ceiling took parts of the balconies down with it,” senior firefighter Nick Harding told reporters. “In my time as a fire officer I’ve never seen an incident like this.”
Desmond Thomas, 18, part of a school party watching the show, said they heard noises before the accident.
“Maybe 10 minutes into the performance we heard a tap-tap noise, we thought it was rain,” he said.
“There was a crack and then it suddenly seemed to get bigger and suddenly it collapsed. The next thing we knew the whole theater filled with dust and smoke,” Thomas added.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said he was being kept updated on the incident and was “grateful for the fast work of the emergency services in helping the injured.”
Some of the injured were treated in triage centers set up in the lobbies of the nearby Gielgud and Queen’s theaters.
Swedish Member of Parliament Hampus Hagman is pushing for changing the name of the nation’s trade office in Taipei to signal improved relations with “Asia’s perhaps foremost democracy.” Hagman on Wednesday last week proposed renaming the Swedish Trade and Invest Council to “Sweden’s Office in Taipei,” following similar changes by other nations. The Swedish Trade and Invest Council, part of Business Sweden, is owned by the Swedish government and Swedish industry. Taiwan and Sweden share important values such as respect for democracy, human rights, the rule of law and freedom of speech, Hagman said in the motion, adding that the two nations
TWO CASES: The five allegedly conspired with conglomerates, threatening the nation’s governance and subverting the rules of ethical conduct, a deputy chief prosecutor said Taipei prosecutors yesterday charged three legislators and one former lawmaker with contravening the Anti-Corruption Act (貪污治罪條例) in a case linked to former Pacific Distribution Investment Co (太平洋流通) chairman Lee Heng-lung’s (李恆隆) battle with the Far Eastern Group (遠東集團) over ownership of the Pacific SOGO Department Store (太平洋崇光百貨) chain, while independent Legislator Chao Cheng-yu (趙正宇) was indicted in a separate case involving two funeral services companies and a plot of land in a national park. Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Chen Chao-ming (陳超明) and Sufin Siluko (廖國棟), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) and former New Power Party legislator
PENGHU INSPECTION: Taiwan cannot let its enemies strut around in its airspace, Tsai said, one day after a Chinese spokesman denied a median line exists in the Taiwan Strait Following China’s assertion on Monday that there is no “median line” in the Taiwan Strait, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday pledged to defend the nation’s airspace during a visit to an air force base in Penghu, saying that Taiwan cannot allow others to flex their military muscle in its territorial airspace. Tsai praised the “heroic performance” of the pilots of the Indigenous Defense Fighters who have been intercepting Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force planes in recent days. “I have a lot of confidence in you. As soldiers of the Republic of China [ROC], how could we let enemies strut
EFFICIENCY: The rules for Philippine arrivals were revised after 17.6% of arrivals with symptoms tested positive, compared with 0.7% of those with no symptoms Starting today, Chinese spouses who hold a reunion permit can apply to enter Taiwan and travelers without symptoms from the Philippines do not need to be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival, but are to be tested after a 14-day quarantine, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that from today, Chinese who are married to a Taiwanese citizen and hold a reunion permit can apply to the National Immigration Agency for entry into Taiwan. Chinese who are married to a foreign national and hold an accompanied reunion permit