Investigation launched into London theatre collapse

Investigation launched into London theatre collapse

An investigation was underway Friday into the causes of a ceiling collapse in a packed London theatre that injured more than 80 people, seven of them seriously, dpa reported.

Witnesses described scenes of chaos as bits of masonry and plaster fell from the historic Apollo theatre's ornate ceiling late Thursday, dragging sections of the balconies with it.

Around 720 people were inside at the time, watching a performance of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time.

A district surveyor had examined the building during the night and declared the roof secure, a spokesman for Westminster City Council said.

One line of inquiry is certain to be the potential affect of heavy rain, hail and lightning strikes that affected London late Thursday.

"The heaviest rain was between 7 pm (1900 GMT) and 8 pm," said a MeteoGroup forecaster. "There was 8 mm in an hour in south London, and we had reports that some of that fell as hail.

"For 8 mm to fall in an hour is quite a lot. The average December monthly rainfall for Heathrow, for example, is 55 mm. When you put it in that sort of perspective, it was a lot," he continued.

Police were called to the theatre at 2015 GMT. They said there was no sign that the collapse was the "result of a criminal act," but added that they were keeping an "open mind."

The fire service, who sent 50 firefighters and eight fire engines to the scene, said that 10 square metres of the main plaster ceiling fell on the audience.

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