Belfast Telegraph

Derry panto theatre evacuated as gas alarm sounds

By Donna Deeney

People at a pantomime in Londonderry were left shocked after the show was abruptly abandoned over safety fears.

The Millennium Forum was evacuated after carbon monoxide alarms went off during a performance of Cinderella.

Cast, crew and hundreds of people, including scores of children, were left clueless after Wednesday's show was called off a short time after it started, with everyone told they would have to leave the building.

Approximately 1,000 people were evacuated as a precautionary measure after the alarms went off shortly before 7.30pm.

It is understood a technical fault in the theatre's wardrobe department was to blame.

Two fire engines attended the scene of the incident.

While order was quickly restored, management at the venue took the decision to cancel the rest of the performance.

In addition to offering an apology on behalf of the theatre, a spokeswoman for the Millennium Forum said the rest of the scheduled performances would continue and those people affected by the evacuation would be offered a refund or, alternatively, seats at another show.

"A technical problem was detected backstage at approximately 7.30pm in our wardrobe department," she said.

"The Fire Service was contacted immediately and, for the safety of customers and staff, it was decided that evacuation of the Millennium Forum was required.

"Forum staff evacuated the auditorium in an orderly and efficient manner, and the performance of Cinderella was cancelled in the interests of audience safety.

"No damage was incurred to the forum and no one was injured in the incident.

"The forum wishes to apologise to all customers affected.

"Box office staff will be in contact with regards to refunds or alternative performances."

A spokeswoman for the fire service said people were ordered out the building as a precaution and confirmed no one was injured. She added: "Firefighters were called to a report of fumes at the Millennium Forum.

"Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus entered the building and, using a gas monitor, confirmed the presence of carbon monoxide in the building.

"Around 1,000 people were evacuated from the building as a precautionary measure.

"The source of the carbon monoxide was identified and the area ventilated."

The production of Cinderella at the Millennium Forum, which features a cast strong in Northern Irish talent, including the return of William Caulfield as the character Buttons, runs until tomorrow.

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