At least 14 killed in India when thunderstorm winds topple massive billboard

Local meteorologists say that strong downbursts preceding a thunderstorm brought down the sign that measured a third of an acre.

MUMBAI, India – At least 14 people have been killed and 74 have been injured in Mumbai after a massive billboard was toppled by thunderstorm winds Monday, according to a local official.

At one point, the media reported that 100 people were trapped. As of Tuesday evening, 44 victims are still hospitalized, one in critical condition, while 31 have been released from the hospital, according to Indian Express.

The 120-by-120-foot sign, spanning a third-of-an-acre, crushed a gas station, cars and homes off a main traffic artery. The search for survivors was slow and didn't wrap up until Tuesday.


"The hoarding (billboard) fell on the petrol pump (gas station) and hence we are not using the cutting equipment. It can cause a spark and create other scenario," an inspector said in a press conference. "We used a hydraulic crane, but it was not successful. We are using manual techniques."

At the time, a developing storm miles away churned up 66 mph downdrafts – tropical storm-force winds. A dust storm choked the city, slowing traffic in the financial capital of the country before rain started, which delayed train service. The airport held flights as well. 

"I was taken by surprise by the sudden intensification, as the wind speed recorded at Badlapur was around 107 kilometers per hour (66 mph), and the usual humidity of the region was lacking," Rushikesh Agre, a weather forecaster told a reporter. "The last time Mumbai experienced an intense dust storm was in January 2022." 


Indian Express called this storm unseasonable and the "first spell of pre-monsoon showers."

Oversize sign

The billboard had been ordered to be taken down previously. The Government Railway Police told The Times of India that it was about to order the sign down after complaints of damaged trees when it was erected.

"We had started the proceedings, but before the action could be taken, the (tragic) incident occurred," the GRP said in a statement.

The sign also well exceeded the 40-by-40-foot maximum size limit set by the municipality. A government minister ordered an inspection of all billboards on Tuesday and immediate removal if any were illegal. At a press conference, he also called for the government to award almost $6,000 to the next of kin for each victim.

Officials charged the owner of the outdoor media company with culpable homicide, not amounting to murder, endangerment, and negligence.