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Rescue unit as far as East Ham sent in after Apollo Theatre ceiling crash

PUBLISHED: 11:24 20 December 2013 | UPDATED: 11:24 20 December 2013

Fire crews at scene outside Apollo Theatre as a rescue operation gets under way

Fire crews at scene outside Apollo Theatre as a rescue operation gets under way

PA Wire/Press Association Images

An emergency crew from East Ham fire-station in east London was part of last night's massive search and rescue operation at the Apollo Theatre in the West End where part of the ceiling collapsed onto the audience.

The specialist rescue unit was a called in as back-up as part of the 60-strong Fire Brigade team drawn from all over London.

“There was still a danger of further collapse when we got there,” said East Ham watch manager Adam Stanley. “We were keeping people back and allowing only essential frontline rescue-workers into the building because of the risk of more masonry falling.”

His crew of five firefighters were later stood down and returned to east London while the search-and-rescue operation continued.

“We saw people were being brought out on stretchers in a well-organised operation,” he added. “So we weren’t needed and returned after an hour.”

His fire-crew was one of 12 called to the Apollo, including Dowgate fire-station near Tower Hill, along with 20 ambulance paramedic crews at the height of the rescue.

Around 700 people were evacuated from the Apollo, police confirmed, with 76 injured including 51 taken to hospital.

Witnesses heard a loud creaking noise, then a crash, with a huge curtain of dust. A large part of the ceiling crashed 30ft down onto the audience during the performance of ‘The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time’ as a reference was made to waves crashing on Brighton rocks—some thought the noise was part of the show.

One man in the audience, Khalil Anjarwalla, said: “The roof caved in and you couldn’t see the sky, then dust filled the entire theatre.

“Everyone was screaming and people rushed for the exit. It was horrific.”

A section of ceiling around 30ft by 30ft plunged four storeys, trapping three people who had to be released by rescuers.

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Were you in the audience or outside the Apollo Theatre last night? Tell us what you saw and if you have pictures of the scene: mike.brooke@archant.co.uk

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