Emergency crews worked to free cinema goers trapped when the ceiling of a central west NSW cinema complex caved in during a sudden heavy storm this afternoon.
Bathurst Police say 36 people were initially trapped when the ceiling in the Bathurst Metro Cinema in Piper Street collapsed at 12.45pm (AEDT). They are all now out.
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University student Aaron Lange, 27, was working at the reception desk of Bathurst Panthers across the road.
"We had a massive storm front come through [that] dumped a massive amount of rain and that storm lasted maybe only 20 minutes but in that 20 minutes it dumped enough rain to collapse the roof of one of the cinemas next door," Mr Lange said.
"In that cinema complex they have five screens and from what I understand from witnesses coming through - it collapsed cinema three."
He said the collapse occurred "towards the end" of the downpour.
"That's when I heard the first sirens come past as our restaurant car park adjoins the cinema car park."
The collapse wasn't visible from the outside, he said.
"The roof is quite flat so ... you can't really see anything from the ground."
Poeple trapped had minor injuries
Three women were taken to hospital, including a pregnant woman, and many children were extremely upset following the incident, Ambulance NSW superintendent Susan Webster said.But she said it was extremely lucky no one was seriously injured or killed.‘‘It was a very difficult situation and there was a huge and very quick response from combined emergency services,’’ she said.‘‘Obviously it was very traumatic for a lot of people involved.’’
Following the collapse, Fire and Rescue NSW used thermal imaging cameras to sift through the rubble to rescue those trapped inside, while others stumbled out of the building unassisted.
Two children were briefly unaccounted, Ms Webster said. However, it emerged shortly afterwards that they were safe and well.‘‘We worked through the cinemas row by row to make sure there was no-one else trapped and no children hiding under seats,’’ Ms Webster said.
Two women in their 30s were taken to Bathurst Hospital. One woman had a shoulder injury while the second woman was brought to the hospital for assessment and observation only, the ambulance service said.
'Winds up to about 83km/h, with hail and lightning'
David Carroll, a Kelso resident and pilot who took a friend for a flight about 10am in Bathurst, said he could see the storm coming in from Cowra.
By about lunchtime, ‘‘winds picked up to about 83km/h and [there were] also some two-centimetre hail balls came in and plenty of lightning as well’’.
‘‘It came through quite fast. It was really surprising how fast the wind was ... 83km/h is quite high. For here we really don’t get that heavy that often. It’s usually around 60km/h but not around 83 to 85km/h.’’
Mr Carroll added that Bathurst had experienced quite a few heavy downpours in recent weeks, with highways closed and traffic backed up about 10 to 15 kilometres out of Bathurst.
Mr Carroll said a rescue helicopter landed behind the Cathedral School in William Street just near the cinema.
'7.6 millimetres of rain fell in 10 minutes'
Bathurst had only received 1 millimetre of rain since 8pm last night, but from about 12.45pm, it was suddenly hit by a deluge of rain, Micaela Weber of Weatherzone.com.au said.
At its peak, 7.6 millimetres of rain fell in 10 minutes, and there has been heavy rain in the area since, she said.
Rain and storms for the area had been forecast for regions west of Sydney along the ranges, but not at such a magnitude, Ms Weber added.
Last month, the Woolworths supermarket's roof collapsed in Bathurst, also as a result of heavy rains.
Weatherzone.com.au is owned by Fairfax Media, publisher of this website.
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