Mumbai Storm Topples Huge Billboard, Killing 14

By John Mercury May 16, 2024

Fourteen people were killed in a suburb of Mumbai, India’s financial capital, on Monday as strong winds from a storm caused the collapse of a huge billboard that officials said had been erected without permission.

At least 64 people were injured in the collapse, and rescue workers were searching for more survivors trapped under the debris on Tuesday morning.

Videos on social media showed the billboard shaking in the storm before falling on a gas station. An eyewitness, Sunil Gaikwad, said he and his wife had taken shelter with dozens of others in the gas station, on a busy road in the Ghatkopar area, when the rain and wind worsened.

Within minutes, he said, the billboard toppled onto the gas station and a parking area.

“All of us were stuck for hours before people came and saved us,” Mr. Gaikwad said from a Mumbai hospital, where he was being treated for minor injuries. “It was like a huge building falling on top of us.”

Mumbai, home to more than 18 million people, is prone to severe flooding and rain-related accidents during the monsoon season, which runs roughly from June to September.

Last year, a landslide triggered by torrential rains killed at least 16 people in Maharashtra, the state that includes Mumbai. Across India, more than 2,000 people were killed last year because of floods and rain-related incidents during the monsoon season, according to data from India’s federal home ministry.

Eknath Shinde, the chief minister of Maharashtra, ordered officials to check all billboard structures in Mumbai. His deputy, Devendra Fadnavis, said the government had opened an investigation into the collapse.

The rains on Monday were followed by dust storms. The authorities at the Mumbai airport said they had diverted more than a dozen inbound flights and suspended operations for more than an hour.

Though the rains brought some relief from the sweltering heat, many parts of the city were inundated, and there were large traffic jams.


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