LONDON: The ceiling of a top London theatre collapsed on the audience during a performance Thursday, causing what police said was an unknown number of casualties and leaving terrified theatregoers covered in blood and dust.
The incident happened during an evening show of the West End show "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time", and comes during the week before Christmas when London's theatres are traditionally busy.
"We were called to the Apollo Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue to reports of a ceiling collapse during a performance. We are aware of a number of casualties, we don't know how many," the Scotland Yard spokesman told AFP.
The police spokesman said he was not immediately aware of any people being trapped.
London Fire Brigade and London Ambulance Service said they had reports of part of a balcony collapsing.
Pictures on social media showed people fleeing the theatre with head injuries and covered in dust.
Audience members said they had heard creaking during the performance.
Simon Usborne, a writer for the Independent newspaper, said there was a "cloud" of dust obscuring the stage after parts of masonry appeared to fall away.
"There was panic, there was screaming," he said.
Martin Bostock said he suffered a head injury after he was hit by falling debris.
"It was complete chaos in the theatre. Absolutely terrifying and awful," he told Britain's Sky News.
"I was in the lower stalls with my family in the early stages of the show.
"I think the front part of the balcony fell down. At first we thought it was part of the show.
"Then I got hit on the head.
"We got out with cuts and bruises. I think most people did."