13 May 2024

Fierce dust storm hits Mumbai; 8 die, 60 hurt as massive billboard collapsed onto fuel station

Mumbai: A massive billboard collapsed onto a fuel station during a fierce dust storm in Mumbai's Ghatkopar trapping many people beneath the rubble. Authorities have confirmed eight fatalities and 59 injuries so far. 

Positioned opposite the fuel station, the billboard crashed directly onto the refueling area, causing significant damage. Investigations are underway to determine if the billboard's installation had proper authorization. The metal framework of the billboard also punctured the roofs of numerous vehicles on the premises. 

Eyewitness Swapnil Khupte recounted the chaotic scene. She said people and vehicles were trapped until assistance arrived.

The police have reported that National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams are currently deployed at the location, actively searching for any survivors trapped beneath the debris. Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde said that rescuing those who may be still trapped under rubble was the top priority at the moment. He said the government will ensure proper treatment for the injured. 

Shinde announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the families of those who lost their lives and instructed relevant authorities to inspect all similar hoardings in Mumbai. Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, in a social media post on X, stated that the state government has initiated an investigation into the incident.

Mumbai was caught unprepared

Mumbai was caught unprepared by a powerful dust storm that wreaked havoc on transportation, toppling trees and structures while plunging several districts of the financial hub into darkness. As the storm descended upon the city, the sky darkened, prompting citizens to share images on social media.

Local trains, a portion of the metro system, and airport services were temporarily halted amidst the ominous atmosphere.

Flights temporarily suspended 

"In response to the adverse weather conditions and dust storms in the vicinity, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA) suspended flight operations for approximately 66 minutes due to limited visibility and strong winds," stated Mumbai airport.

"Operations resumed at 17:03 hours, following which the airport experienced 15 diversions. CSMIA recently concluded its pre-monsoon runway maintenance, ensuring the safety and efficiency of aircraft operations. Committed to seamless operations and passenger safety, the airport remains steadfast in prioritizing smooth operations," the statement affirmed.

IMD's prediction

The IMD Mumbai issued a "nowcast warning," predicting a thunderstorm accompanied by lightning and moderate to intense rain for Thane, Palghar, and Mumbai.

Metro services between Aarey and Andheri East were suspended due to a billboard falling on the overhead wire. Suburban trains were also impacted when a strong gust of wind bent an overhead equipment pole between Thane and Mulund.

According to the chief spokesperson of Central Railway, suburban services on the main line have been halted.

While the unseasonal rain provided relief from the heat, power outages in areas like Thane's Kalwa added to residents' woes. Additionally, the dust storm caused trees to be uprooted in various parts of the city. Moderate rain was observed in satellite towns such as Thane, Ambernath, Badlapur, Kalyan, and Ulhasnagar.

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