Huge billboard in Mumbai toppled by storm, killing more than a dozen people in India’s financial capital

New Delhi — At least 14 people were killed and 74 others injured when a massive billboard collapsed in India’s financial capital of Mumbai during a severe wind and dust storm on Monday evening.

The metal billboard — bigger than an Olympic-sized swimming pool at 120 feet in length and height — had overlooked a gas station in the Mumbai suburb of Ghatkopar before it collapsed onto the business, crushing cars and people below.

Videos shared on social media showed the billboard — which had been marketed as Asia’s largest — blowing around before it collapsed in the blinding dust storm, which was followed by heavy rains that disrupted flights and traffic in the city.

An aerial view shows a fallen billboard on a fuel station following a wind and dust storm in Mumbai
An aerial view shows a fallen billboard on a gas station following a wind and dust storm in Mumbai, India, May 13, 2024.

Prashant Waydande/REUTERS

Rescuers worked through the night and into Tuesday afternoon, using heavy machinery to cut through the mangled metal debris of the collapsed structure to find survivors and retrieve bodies.

Maharashtra state’s top government official, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, called the incident “painful and sad” and vowed “strict action” against the billboard’s owners. He also announced government compensation of 500,000 Indian rupees (about $6,000) for every family that had someone killed in the accident.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), Mumbai’s municipal body, said in a statement that the billboard’s owner, the Ego Media agency, did not have a permit to erect the huge structure.

The hoarding was nine times larger than what was permitted, according to the BMC.

A machine is used to clear the debris at a fuel station after a massive billboard fell during a rainstorm in Mumbai
A machine is used to clear debris at a gas station after a massive billboard collapsed onto the business during a severe wind and dust storm in Mumbai, India, May 14, 2024.

Hemanshi Kamani/REUTERS

Police have registered a case of culpable homicide against Bhavesh Bhinde, the owner of Ego Media.

The BMC was ordered to carry out a safety audit of all hoardings in the sprawling, densely populated city, and to take down any deemed dangerous, Shinde said in a social media post.

Mumbai is India’s commercial and financial hub, and it’s home to hundreds of towering advertising billboards – a concern as climate change fuels ever more intense storms, which often bring with them severe winds and rain.

The city is often crippled by flooding during the monsoon season, which stretches from June to September.

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