Australia’s Sydney Opera House was evacuated yesterday when a suspicious package was discovered on the premises and a hostage situation broke out in a nearby café. After an intense 17-hour standoff, the siege ended with two shot dead and at least three injured in a chaotic firefight. Several performances at the venue, including a Damon Albarn concert scheduled for tonight (Monday, December 15th), have been either cancelled or postponed in light of the situation.
Staff and visitors to the iconic venue were evacuated at 10am local time when a suspicious package was reportedly discovered in the area. At the same time, an Iranian-born gunman held numerous employees and customers hostage at the Lindt Chocolat Café in Martin Place a few blocks away. Though representatives of Sydney Opera House said that reports of the package were unfounded, the venue remained locked down for the majority of the day.
The hostage situation continued for nearly 17 hours, until one victim exited the café with his hands up, immediately lying down in front of the police officers stationed outside. Seconds later, a group of five hostages emerged in what appeared to be an escape. This evidently triggered the tactical police to move in. Heavily armed, they stormed the café around 2am local time. In a battle of gunfire and stun grenades that lasted for approximately two minutes, police regained control of the situation. The gunman, who was discovered to be a known Islamic radical named Man Haron Monis, was shot down, along with one hostage. A bomb disposal robot was seen entering the café, and eleven hostages were accounted for after the raid.
According to a statement from Sydney Opera House, their performance schedule has been amended “to minimise pressure on transport networks and to provide as much notice as possible to staff and patrons.” Tonight’s cancelled shows include the Australian Ballet’s The Nutcracker in the Joan Sutherland Theatre, the Sydney Theatre Company’s Switzerland in the Drama Theatre, and Damon Albarn in the Concert Hall. They also cancelled several children’s shows that had been scheduled for Tuesday night, including The Tiger Who Came to Tea and The Little Drummer Boy.
To make up for the cancellation, Albarn has agreed to perform two back-to-back concerts tomorrow evening (Tuesday, December 16th). The alternative rocker will take the stage at 7pm and return for another show at 9:30pm (AEDT, UTC/GMT+11). Updated information regarding refunds and exchanges for all affected shows is available on the Sydney Opera House website.