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Typhoon Mangkhut

Typhoon damage to Hong Kong trees: did long-term neglect play a role?

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 September, 2018, 7:02pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 September, 2018, 7:01pm

I am writing in response to the article, “Experts question if 11 specimens on Hong Kong’s ‘Old and Valuable Trees’ list could have survived Typhoon Mangkhut with proper care” (September 22).

Typhoon Mangkhut was a devastating monster storm that caused widespread damage in Hong Kong. Among the casualties were countless trees, 11 of them from the heritage list. Of course, the hurricane force winds were to blame for most of the trees toppling over, but I wonder whether poor tree management also played a part.

Just a month ago, a woman died after being hit on the head by a 30kg branch at a public housing estate in Sau Mau Ping. The tragic death of the Indonesian helper once again reminded us about the hidden dangers faced by pedestrians. But why did such a terrible accident occur on what was a windless day? The related authorities ought to shoulder the responsibility.

The trees in Hong Kong definitely lack appropriate management and protection. Despite the fact that the authorities regularly inspect the trees and put tags on infected ones, it seems follow-up action is usually inadequate, unless an accident happens.

Watch: Typhoon Mangkhut damaged dozens of historic trees

Historic Hong Kong banyan tree removed from site at city hotel

In 2014, a pregnant woman was killed by a falling tree in Mid-Levels and in 2008, a student died in a similar way in Stanley. After the latest tragedy, experts have pointed at long-running shortcomings in tree management and how improper pruning can make branches weaker, and there have been reports of conflicts of interest among contractors responsible for maintenance.

These sad incidents highlight how the government should never overlook the importance of tree management and needs to bring in a law to govern the maintenance of trees.

Amos Kwok, Yuen Long