14 People Dead after Billboard Collapses

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A thunderstorm in Mumbai, India led to the collapse of a large billboard, resulting in the death of 14 people and dozens injured. The accident happened on the evening of May 13, 2024, in the suburb of Ghatkopar. The billboard, measuring 220×160 feet, fell onto a petrol station and several residential structures nearby.

Emergency personnel worked through the night until Tuesday morning, using heavy equipment to sort through the debris. As reported by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the governing civic body of Mumbai, a total of 74 individuals were rushed to local hospitals, with 31 released after receiving treatment. The billboard, located alongside a busy road, was knocked down by the combination of powerful winds and heavy rain, leading to extensive damage and confusion.

Local officials swiftly responded to the catastrophe, with Mumbai’s municipal body confirming that the billboard had been illegally installed. The Press Trust of India reported that Ego Media, the advertising agency in charge, lacked the necessary permits for such a large structure. The BMC has since ordered the removal of remaining billboards erected by the same agency and has initiated legal proceedings against Bhavesh Bhinde, the proprietor of Ego Media, on charges of culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

Maharashtra’s deputy chief minister, Devendra Fadnavis, announced an investigation into the disaster and pledged severe action against those found guilty. “A high-level inquiry has been ordered into the incident. We will ensure that such negligence does not go unpunished,” Fadnavis posted on social media.

The storm that triggered the collapse also caused widespread disturbance across Mumbai, including uprooted trees, power failures, and significant disruption to the city’s train service. Traffic was halted in numerous areas of the city, and operations at Mumbai’s airport, one of India’s busiest, were severely impacted, resulting in the diversion of at least 15 flights.

The rescue operation was particularly difficult due to the presence of inflammable liquids at the petrol station. Mohsen Shahedi, a senior officer from the National Disaster Response Force, detailed the challenges faced by the rescuers. “The operation was very challenging due to the weight of the structure and the presence of flammable liquid and gas at the site,” he stated.

The victims included local residents and workers carrying out their daily activities when the billboard fell. A taxi driver and a 23-year-old petrol station employee were among those killed. The victims’ families expressed their sorrow and anger over the incident, demanding justice and accountability.

Eknath Shinde, the chief minister of Maharashtra, offered his condolences and announced a government compensation of around $6,000 for each bereaved family. “This is a painful and sad incident. We will take strict action against those responsible,” Shinde said.

The incident has initiated a wider conversation about the safety and regulation of billboards in Mumbai. The BMC has ordered a structural review of all billboards in the city to ensure they meet safety standards. Bhushan Gagrani, the head of the BMC, stated that out of 1,300 billboards in Mumbai, around 30 still needed to submit the required structural stability reports. “We are looking into that and will take necessary actions to prevent such accidents in the future,” Gagrani said.

In response to the tragedy, the Pune Municipal Corporation has started the removal of over 1,500 illegal billboards. The Mumbai billboard collapse has highlighted the critical need for stricter enforcement of regulations and a heightened focus on public safety issues.

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