Eyewitnesses have described the “chaos and panic” that ensued as parts of the Apollo Theatre in London “began to crumble down” around them on Thursday night.
Investigations are still trying to find out exactly what caused the incident, which happened shortly after 8pm.
Some 80 people were injured – seven seriously – as masonry and ornate plaster from the Grade II-listed theatre in the West End plummeted from the ceiling, while a section of the balcony also fell away.
The National Theatre’s performance of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time was 45 minutes old when members of the 700-strong audience started screaming as parts of the roof appeared to cave in, filling the room with clouds of thick dust.
Westminster City Council is expected to report on a structural assessment of the Shaftesbury Avenue venue on Friday, although an initial structural assessment had found the building to be secure.
One line of inquiry will be the effect of adverse weather on the 100-year-old building. Forecasters have confirmed that an abnormally high concentration of rain, hail and lightning strikes occurred between 7pm and 9pm on the night.
In fact, as much as 14.5% of the average monthly rainfall for one area in December fell during just one hour.
“There was 8mm in an hour in south London, and we had reports that some of that fell as hail,” said a MeteoGroup forecaster.
“For 8mm to fall in an hour is quite a lot. The average December monthly rainfall for Heathrow, for example, is 55mm. When you put it in that sort of perspective, it was a lot.
“We also had 15 lightning strikes that occurred during the evening yesterday. They are fairly scattered around London, but I can confirm there was one in central London.”
London Fire Brigade has confirmed that the Apollo Theatre is now sealed off and the search of the building is complete.
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