LONDON -- The ceiling of a London theater partially
collapsed Thursday night, showering a packed audience with heaps of plaster,
wood and dust. More than 80 people were injured - at least seven seriously -
and several trapped theater-goers had to be rescued, authorities said.
The collapse at the Apollo Theatre
took place at 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. The ceiling came down, bringing
parts of the theater's balconies with it, police said.
We originally thought it was sound
affects of the theater and then we just looked up. It was like slow motion ... the whole ceiling
came down," said one theatergoer to CBS News.
"One of the actors said, 'Watch
out, watch out,'" said another theater patron. ""We thought it was
part of the play. Then debris, dust and stuff everywhere ... You couldn't see
anything, you didn't know what was going on."
More than 700 people were in the theater at
the time, according to the London Fire Department.
Emergency workers would not speculate
on why part of the ceiling collapsed.
"Complete chaos" erupted as
the debris rained down, said Martin Bostock, who came with his family to see
the show, which is based on the best-selling novel by Mark Haddon.
"At first, we thought it was part
of the show," he told Sky News. "Then I got hit on the head."
Libby Grundy, 65, said she heard a
bang - and then saw a "huge cloud of dust."
"I thought it was a special
effect," she said. "And then people realized it must be some sort of
emergency and people started getting up. People didn't panic. (But) people were
quite shaky when they got out."
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.
London's Ambulance Service said it
treated 88 patients - 81 with minor injuries and seven with "more
serious" injuries who were taken to nearby hospitals. None of the injuries
were believed to be life-threatening, officials said.
A London city bus was commandeered to
take some of the wounded to the hospital.
The fire department reported that all
those who had been trapped in the Apollo have been rescued.
Shaftesbury Avenue, normally one of
London's busiest streets and teeming with pedestrians, was completely shut down
by emergency workers.
The Apollo Theatre, named for the
Greek and Roman god Apollo, god of music and the arts, was built in 1901 and
has 775 seats.
The show, which is aimed at young
people as well as adults, is about a boy with Asperger's who sets out to solve
Prime Minister David Cameron said via
Twitter that he was being updated regularly on the crisis. He praised the
city's emergency services - who were on the scene within three minutes - for
their "fast work" in helping the injured.