5 injured by falling tree on TST's 'golden mile'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 July, 2012, 12:00am


Five pedestrians were injured last night when a 14-metre-tall Chinese banyan tree collapsed on one of Tsim Sha Tsui's busiest shopping areas.

The century-old tree fell on Park Lane Shoppers' Boulevard, Nathan Road, at about 9.30pm, striking four women and a man, aged 23 to 44, before coming to rest on the ground and a bus shelter. The injured were taken to hospital for treatment, although none of the injuries were thought to be life threatening.

The incident invoked memories of the collapse of a coral tree on Stanley Main Street in September 2008, which killed a 19-year-old business student and led to a government campaign to improve the oversight of ageing trees, including the creation of the Tree Management Office.

The weather was fine at the time of the collapse. Witnesses reported hearing a loud noise like an explosion and breaking glass as the tree came tumbling down.

'I heard a boom when I was walking on the opposite side of the road,' one man said. 'People then started to yell for help and urged others to call police.'

He saw a woman trapped under the tree. 'I could not see her face, but just her legs.'

Firefighters arrived about 10 minutes later and helped extract the injured. One woman helped to an ambulance had her arm bandaged.

The tree, which was 11 metres in diameter at its crown, was among the 'old and valuable' trees managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and one of about 30 that line the shopping strip.

It was last checked by the department on January 30, according to government records. Inspectors had found 'abnormal defoliation (severe)' and completed 'mitigation measures' as far back as last July.

Ken So Kwok-yin, chief executive of the Conservancy Association, who had helped monitor the fallen tree and it neighbours, said after reviewing the damage last night that brown root rot might have contributed to the collapse. The tree was diagnosed with the disease a year ago.

So said the tree's foliage appeared thinner than that of its neighbours. He also noticed characteristic brown stripes on the tree's roots, strong signs that the tree was 'seriously ill'.

'From what I learned, the tree office diagnosed it with brown root rot disease,' he said. 'I'm not sure what kind of surveillance or treatments it provided after the diagnosis.

'If they have checked the wood condition inside the tree, they will have found that its internal condition is really bad.'

A spokesman for the LCSD said the agency would investigate to determine why it fell and check to make sure nearby trees were safe.

The trees in the area date to efforts to develop Kowloon under colonial governor Matthew Nathan in the first decade of the last century, So said. They are believed to have suffered from severe pruning in the 1970s.

One northbound lane was closed to traffic while firefighters and workers from the LCSD, Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and Tree Management Office cleared the debris.