Hair salon customers had a “miracle” escape after a ceiling collapsed, showering customers and staff in debris and trapping as many as eight people inside.
Paramedics raced to the scene of the Hair Philosophy premises on St Luke’s Terrace, Pallion, Sunderland, after the plaster cracked and sent rubble raining down on those inside.
Witnesses described “panic and chaos” after the suspended ceiling crumbled while ambulance workers said those that were pulled from the building were “covered in debris”.
Firefighters said six people were taken to hospital and a hazardous area response team was deployed over fears of toxic chemicals.
An urban search and rescue advisor was called as firefighters erected a timber structure to shore-up the building so a search could be conducted. Firefighters, ambulance crews and police were called at around 1.20pm yesterday to the business and the road was closed.
Paramedics said it had been a “miracle” no-one was more seriously injured. A spokesman for the North East Ambulance Service said: “We were called at just after 1pm to reports that a roof had collapsed at a hair salon in Sunderland.
“Initial reports indicated that people were trapped inside and that turned out to be the case. Fortunately all those inside have had a lucky escape, it’s a bit of a miracle.
“We had one person taken to Sunderland accident and emergency with minor injuries which is lucky when you consider the roof has basically caved in.”
At least four fire engines, three police cars and one ambulance were called to the shop at around 1.20pm yesterday. Shattered glass, plaster and dust was seen scattered across the floor after the ceiling crumbled on those below.
Witnesses reported that those inside the building were screaming for help from the window and others had emerged covered in dust.
Lizzie Hannon, who runs Ultimate Ink tattoo studio, two doors away from the salon, said her father heard what he thought was a rumble of thunder moments before the drama unfolded.
“We thought someone had been knocked over so we went to see what had happened. There were the girls trapped inside, calling out of the shop window,” she added.
“They had the window open and they were shouting for help.
“It looked like there was dust and smoke all inside and the roof had collapsed on the inside.
“They couldn’t get to the door and when the police came they told them they had to get away from the door so they could ram it in.
“We saw a woman with silver stuff all in her hair still.
“The owner had a lot of work on the building done in January.”
John Finn, from Hylton Road, Sunderland, was driving past the scene when fire engines and police cars screeched past his car.
The 41-year-old landlord said: “We were coming down Pallion Road and the fire engines and police were coming down behind us. We pulled over and we looked up the road and there was a woman hanging out of the window screaming for help. “Police were ramming the door to get people out. I saw three women come out and they were in a right state.”
St Luke’s Terrace was closed for more than four hours.
Group Manager Peter Iveson, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: “On arrival, crews found that an internal ceiling had collapsed inside a single storey end terraced property used as a hairdressers and beauty salon.
“It was believed there were eight persons including staff and customers in the building at the time of the collapse and crews checked records to verify this to ensure everyone was led to safety.
“Crews erected some temporary timber shoring to provide support to the structure to enable the search operation to commence and firefighters used a specialist search camera to enable the detection of any people who could have still been trapped under the debris.
“On the arrival of crews, eight people had vacated the property and six were taken to hospital who were believed to be suffering from minor cuts, smoke inhalation and shock.”
A Northumbria Police spokesman said: “Everyone who was inside the building has been accounted for and no-one is believed to be seriously injured.”