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Initial theatre checks completed

Initial safety checks at a West End theatre where a ceiling collapsed striking members of the audience have concluded and the venue has been handed back to its owner.

Investigations are ongoing into why around 10 square metres of plaster from the Apollo Theatre plummeted on to the stalls below, leaving 80 wounded.

The company which runs the the Grade II-listed building in Shaftesbury Avenue said that it is continuing to assist the authorities as they try to ascertain the cause of the incident.

A spokeswoman for Nimax Theatres said: "The relevant authorities handed the theatre back to Nimax at 4.30pm today which meant we could commence the process of carefully recovering and logging all personal effects left in the theatre following its evacuation and subsequently return them to their owners."

Westminster City Council said: "T he building is safe for our investigators to go in but we cannot confirm if it is safe to open until our investigations are concluded."

More than 700 people were inside the Apollo - which was 45 minutes into the National Theatre's performance of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time - when members of the audience started screaming as it appeared parts of the ceiling caved in.

Some of the injured were taken to hospital on board London buses as the emergency services dealt with the incident in the heart of the capital.

Most were discharged shortly afterwards, having been mainly treated for cuts and bruises.

Although performances at the Apollo have been cancelled until January 4, London Mayor Boris Johnson said the West End is "open for business"

Mr Johnson also praised the response from emergency services as "exemplary", adding : "I would stress that, although it is too early to say what caused this collapse, and whilst this was a serious incident, London's world-renowned Theatreland is open for business and thousands of theatre-goers will rightly be out and about tonight and over the weekend.

"Westminster City Council and the Society of London Theatre have assured me that all safety checks for the West End's historic theatres are up to date but, as a precaution, further checks have already started and will continue throughout the day."

A Scotland Yard spokesman said they had ruled out criminal involvement and the investigation into what happened will be handled by the council.

Nicola Aiken, the council's cabinet member for community protection, confirmed the theatre's health and safety checks were "up to date".

She said: "Each historic theatre is unique and we have no reason to believe this is other than an isolated incident.

"We have confirmed today with the Society of London Theatre that all theatres' safety checks are up to date; however, as a precaution, all historic theatres are carrying out further safety checks today."

She said she could not "speculate" on how long the investigation would take and added that council staff would leave "no stone unturned" in investigating the cause.

One line of inquiry will be the effect of adverse weather on the 100-year-old building.

Forecasters confirmed there was an abnormally high concentration of rain, hail and lightning strikes in London between 7pm and 9pm last night, with nearly 15% (14.5%) of the average monthly rainfall for one area in December falling in one hour.

A MeteoGroup forecaster said: "In terms of that particularly heavy rain that we had overnight, the heaviest rain was between 7pm and 8pm. There was 8mm (0.3in) in an hour in south London, and we had reports that some of that fell as hail.

"For 8mm to fall in an hour is quite a lot. The average December monthly rainfall for Heathrow, for example, is 55mm (2.2in). 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.

"That is a lot of lightning, especially for quite a concentrated area. When you look at the rest of the UK there is not very much, and it's quite unusual for them all to cluster in one location."


From Belfast Telegraph