Police and emergency services personnel assist in operations behind a cordon following a ceiling collapse at a theatre in Central London (LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)
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At least 80 injured in partial London theater collapse

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LONDON (AP) -- British officials say more than 80 people have been injured - seven of them seriously - by a roof collapse at a packed London theater.

London Ambulance Services says it has treated 81 "walking wounded" and 7 more seriously injured patients following the collapse Thursday evening at the Apollo Theatre.

Police say they aren't aware of any fatalities "at this early stage."

The fire department said several trapped people had been rescued.

It said a section of the theater's ceiling had collapsed and took parts of its balconies down with it, sending plaster, wood and debris crashing onto the audience watching a performance of "The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Nighttime."

Early reports from the AP said the central London theater was packed with about 700 people when it partially collapsed Thursday night during a performance at the height of the Christmas season.

The incident took place at the Apollo Theatre on Shaftsbury Avenue at 8:15 p.m. (2015 GMT; 3:15 p.m. EST). More than 40 "walking wounded" are being treated at a nearby theater, police added.

Martin Bostock was in the audience with his family, and said "complete chaos" erupted in the theater.

"At first we thought it was part of the show," he told Sky News. "Then I got hit on the head."

London was hit by a freak thunderstorm about 7 p.m. (1900 GMT; 2 p.m. EST) that dumped heavy rain on the city, but it wasn't immediately clear if that was related to the collapse.

It wasn't immediately clear if the roof, ceiling or balcony collapsed at the theater during a performance of "The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Nighttime." Special search and rescue teams remain on the scene, along with ambulances and police.

Witnesses told British media that the theater in London's famous West End was packed during the holiday season to see the show, which is based on the best-selling novel by Mark Haddon.

"We thought it was part of the show, until something hit me on the head very hard," one man told the BBC, speaking from the foyer of the theater while he was being evaluated by emergency workers. "I thought we were all going to be in really, really serious trouble."

"Within an instant, the entire roof caved in," another witness told the BBC.

London's fire department said eight engines are on the scene in the SoHo neighborhood, and the city's ambulance service said it had sent "a number" of crews to the theater.

The Apollo Theatre, named for the Greek and Roman god Apollo, god of music and the arts, was built in 1901 and has 775 seats.

On its website, the theatre warned that its balcony was one of the steepest in London "so avoid if you have trouble with heights."

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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