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India: Owner of billboard that killed 16 people arrested

Tanika Godbole
May 17, 2024

Mumbai police tracked down the owner of the billboard which fell during a storm killing 16 and injuring 75. He has been charged with culpable homicide.

A machine is used to clear billboard debris at the gas station in Mumbai on May 14
The rescue operation was called off after 63 hoursImage: Hemanshi Kamani/REUTERS

Police from the west Indian city of Mumbai on Thursday arrested the owner of a huge billboard that collapsed during a storm earlier this week, killing 16.  

The advertisement sign fell onto a gas station on Monday during heavy rains. Some 75 people were injured, while the storm uprooted trees and disrupted electricity, with several flights delayed or canceled.

Owner arrested, charged with culpable homicide

Police arrested Bhavesh B., the owner of the advertising agency Ego Media Private Limited that erected the billboard in the city of Udaipur, around 800 kilometers (497 miles) north of Mumbai. He was charged with culpable homicide after evading the authorities for three days. 

The agency did not have a permit for the billboard, which measured about nine times more than the maximum permitted size.

The owner had fled from Mumbai to different locations across the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan.

"The operation was a top secret, and even the Udaipur police did not know about it," a person from the investigating team told Indian broadcaster NDTV. 

The police team arrived back with the owner in Mumbai early on Friday.

What happened with the billboard?

Rescue efforts were officially called off after 63 hours, but the debris from the sign has yet to be cleared from the site, The Indian Express reported. 

The incident has highlighted the lax safety standards when it comes to advertisement billboards in Mumbai. The public outrage has led to calls for more stringent enforcement of regulations.

An investigation by The Indian Express said the billboard had been flagged with civic authorities for lack of required permissions 14 months ago, but no action was taken.

Maharashtra state's Chief Minister Eknath Shinde has called for a city-wide inspection of all billboards in Mumbai.

India experiences heavy rains and severe flooding during the monsoon season between June and September, which brings most of South Asia's annual rainfall.

The rains are crucial for rain-fed crops planted during the season, but often cause extensive damage.

Torrential rain sweeps across northern India

AFP contributed to this story.

Edited by: Rana Taha