Accidents and personal safety in Hong Kong

Let’s see action after another Hong Kong tree tragedy

Despite previous measures by the government, an Indonesian domestic helper has become the fifth person to be killed by a falling branch in 10 years

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 August, 2018, 8:30pm
UPDATED : Friday, 24 August, 2018, 8:30pm

The same question has been asked after the city suffered yet another fatal tree accident, the fifth in 10 years. This time an Indonesian domestic helper was killed by a falling branch near a public housing estate in Kwun Tong. Whether the incident could have been prevented may seem hypothetical now. Misfortune aside, a wealth of issues needs to be addressed to prevent more tragedies from occurring.

Officials said the Indian rubber tree in question had been inspected in June and was about to be pruned and have its dead branches removed by a contractor yesterday. Unfortunately, the branch, 4.5 metres long and weighing 30kg, collapsed just three days before the scheduled pruning. However, an expert who examined the tree said there had been noticeable signs of rot for at least six months.

This raises questions over the government’s approach towards tree management. Currently, responsibilities are scattered across different departments, with inspection and pruning duties outsourced to contractors. But the standards still leave much to be desired, and suggestions that some contractors do not take their duties seriously because of a heavy workload are disturbing and must be followed up.

Bad branch that killed maid shows poor tree management, experts say

A tree management office and revamped supervisory regime were put in place following an inquest into the death of a student killed by a collapsed tree in Stanley in 2008. Yet accidents continue to make headlines, with the previous fatality in 2014 being a pregnant woman who was hit by a falling tree in Mid-Levels.

With countless number of trees growing so close to centres of population in our crowded city, it may be unrealistic to expect such incidents not to occur. But, having spent so much money to set up a tree management office for almost a decade, the public has legitimate expectations when it comes to government action to help minimise accidents.

The expression of sadness by the departments concerned does little to ease the pain of the victim’s family and friends. It is meaningless to put in place a bureaucracy for tree management if those involved do not take their responsibility seriously. Lessons must be learned and the tragedy accounted for.