1 dead, 4 injured after Tembusu tree falls at Singapore Botanic Gardens

Channel NewAsia 11 Feb 17;

SINGAPORE: One person died on Saturday (Feb 11) after a massive Tembusu tree toppled at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, interrupting an event organised by the High Commission of Canada that was scheduled to start at 5pm.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said it was alerted to the incident near the Symphony Stage at 4.25pm and that five people were taken to the National University Hospital.

The National Parks Board (NParks) confirmed in a statement at 8.32pm that one of the five had died. The agency also said it was investigating the cause of the tree falling.

"Our priority now is to accord assistance to the families of the deceased and the injured," it added in the statement.

Police said the person who died is a 38-year-old female Indian national who was there with her family. Her husband, a 39-year-old French national, and their two children, both aged one, suffered injuries.

The High Commission of Canada, in a post on Twitter, said it was "deeply saddened" by the death.

Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam called the incident a "terrible accident".

"Our deepest sympathies to the family of the person who was killed by the falling Tembusu tree at the Botanic Gardens this afternoon. Hope the four others injured will recover soon," Mr Tharman wrote on Facebook at about 10.40pm.

SOUNDED "LIKE THUNDER"

Eyewitness Jonathan Ang, who was there for the concert, said he was sitting at the open area away from most of the trees.

"Suddenly we heard a cracking sound, like thunder," he said.

Across the main path, a tree fell "within five seconds", taking another tree beside it down with it.

"There were easily a hundred of us that rushed forward to help push the branches, the logs away," he added, estimating that there were about four to six people under the "huge" tree when it fell.

According to the Singapore Botanic Gardens' website, the Tembusu tree - which was 40m tall with a girth of 6.5m - is estimated to be more than 270 years old and is the largest of its kind in the Gardens.

Mr Ang said that thankfully, there were not many people sitting in the area as it was under the sun. Most of those nearby also appeared to be unharmed - "except for one poor woman, I'm not sure if she made it ... She was unconscious and her husband was calling for her."

SCDF arrived within about five minutes, and paramedics appeared to be trying to revive the woman, he added.

SUNDAY'S EVENTS CANCELLED

A note posted on the Canada High Commission's Twitter account at 5.18pm said the Canada 150 concert had been cancelled due to "unforeseen circumstances". The event was meant to countdown to the country's 150th birthday with a concert by renowned Canadian pianist Roger Lord and an opening performance by the Canadian International School’s Symphonic Band 9-12. Singaporean DJ duo Rave Republic was also at the Botanic Gardens.

When Channel NewsAsia arrived at the scene at about 5.45pm, police were seen on the site and the area had been cordoned off.

More than 20 workers were also seen clearing the branches from the toppled tree at about 6.15pm.

At about 6.30pm, SCDF added that it was working with NParks personnel in the search operation.

All programmes at the Singapore Botanic Gardens on Sunday have been cancelled.

- CNA/mz


Botanic Gardens' Tembusu tree that fell last inspected in September: NParks
Melissa Zhu Channel NewsAsia 12 Feb 17;

SINGAPORE: The heritage Tembusu tree that collapsed at the Singapore Botanic Gardens on Saturday (Feb 11), killing one person and injuring four others, was last inspected and found to be healthy in September 2016, according to the National Park Board (NParks).

The 40m-tall tree was uprooted at the edge of Palm Valley in the Gardens, bringing down surrounding palm trees as it fell. The tree was more than 270 years old and predated the establishment of the Gardens, according to the authority.

NParks added that as a Singapore Botanic Gardens heritage tree, the tree was inspected twice a year - a higher frequency than other trees in the Gardens.

"The tree was also protected by a lightning conductor and fenced off to prevent compaction of its root zone by visitors. Leaf litter is routinely applied to the root zone to encourage healthy root growth," it said.

Tan Huan Arboriculture Services managing director Andy Tan said he would expect a tree this old to have been inspected every month, to ensure that issues such as fungi and termites do not set in.

Nonetheless, he said it was unlikely that fungi or termites were the cause of the incident. These issues could take up to one or two years to weaken such a big tree enough for it to fall, and tell-tale signs such as unhealthy leaves or termite tracks would be evident months before, according to Mr Tan.

The tree expert's opinion was that the most likely cause of the tree toppling was water-logging due to recent heavy rains. This could result in the surrounding soil loosening and the roots rotting. Strong winds during storms could have further exacerbated the problem, he added.

"Still, you would seldom see this for the Tembusu tree as they have very large roots ... their base is very strong."

NParks is investigating the cause of the tree falling.

- CNA/mz


Fallen Tembusu tree at Botanic Gardens kills 1, injures 4
Today Online 12 Feb 17;

SINGAPORE — A 38-year-old woman from India was killed and four others injured when a 40m tall Tembusu tree collapsed in the Singapore Botanic Gardens on Saturday afternoon (Feb 11), shortly before the start of a concert and movie screening.

The deceased's husband, a 39-year-old French national, and their two children, both aged one, were among the injured. A 26-year-old Singaporean woman was also hurt during the incident, the police said.

The tree, which had a 6.5m girth, was uprooted at 4.25pm at the edge of the Palm Valley in the Botanic Gardens, near the Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage, the Nationals Parks Board (NParks) said in a statement.

"We are investigating the cause of the tree fall. Our priority now is to accord assistance to the families of the deceased and the injured," said Mr Kenneth Er, chief executive officer of NParks.

According to NParks, the tree that fell was more than 270 years old and predated the establishment of the Gardens. It was last inspected in September last year and was found to be healthy.

"As an SBG Heritage tree, it was inspected twice a year, which is of a higher frequency than other trees in the Gardens," said Mr Er. "The tree was also protected by a lightning conductor and fenced off to prevent compaction of its root zone by visitors. Leaf litter is routinely applied to the root zone to encourage healthy root growth."

The fallen Tembusu tree brought down several surrounding palm trees during the incident. The injured were taken to the National University Hospital on Saturday. The extent of their injurires are unclear.

In a Facebook post, the High Commission of Canada in Singapore expressed sympathy for the friends and families of the injured, adding: "We are sincerely grateful to those who came so quickly to the aid of those injured."

The High Commission had organised the event to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday through music and film. It was due to start at 5pm.

An eyewitness video posted on social media showed park goers rushing to the aid of what appeared to be victims trapped by the fallen tree. The SCDF said it sent two fire engines, one Red Rhino, one Fire Bike, four ambulances and two support vehicles to the scene.


Following the incident, the Singapore Botanic Gardens announced that all programmes scheduled at the park on Sunday have been cancelled. Events scheduled in the park on Sunday include a Valentines' Day musical performance at the Bandstand.

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