Public safety

Two more trees near scene of fatal Mid-Levels accident pose threat to public, says expert

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 August, 2014, 2:53pm
UPDATED : Friday, 15 August, 2014, 5:35pm

At least two other trees near the site of yesterday’s tree collapse in Mid-Levels – which killed a heavily pregnant woman – could also give way at any time, posing an imminent danger to the public, an expert said on Friday.

Two White Champaca or White Sandalwood trees on Robinson Road have grown too big for where they are planted and their roots are already rotten, said University of Hong Kong tree specialist Professor Jim Chi-yung.

Jim was speaking after 37-year-old Zhang Qin was killed on Thursday while waiting for a minibus when a 10-metre-tall Indian rubber tree collapsed and landed on her at about 2.30pm.

Her baby son was delivered by emergency caesarean section following the accident at Palm Court, and remains in a critical condition in hospital on Friday.

The HKU expert said the two White Champaca trees are over 10 metres tall but are planted in tiny flowerbeds near pavements.

“The roots are pressed by the flowerbed edge and are heavily rotten already. This is extremely dangerous,” Jim told RTHK.

He urged the owners of the trees to remove them as soon as possible.

The trees are located about 200 metres west of the site of yesterday’s tragedy. The section of Robinson Road outside Palm Court remained cordoned off on Friday morning.

Jim also renewed calls for the government to hold tree owners legally responsible for any threat to public safety and to ensure the quality of contractors managing trees.

Yesterday’s tragedy could have been avoided if trees in the city had been checked regularly by qualified contractors, he said.

Principal assistant secretary for development Kathy Ng Tze-kwan did not make it clear if the government would consider Jim’s suggestion when asked in the same radio programme.

Ng said the idea would involve “complex issues” such as how to train professional tree contractors.

On Thursday Jim said he suspected the tree which killed Zhang Qin was infected with brown root rot disease, dubbed “tree cancer”. The government has been criticised for failing to act quickly to stop its spread.

The 48-year-old residential building in which the tree was planted is managed by Hang Yick Property Management Company. A spokesman for the company declined to comment yesterday.

A resident living nearby said the tree was trimmed once a year.