Accidents and personal safety in Hong Kong
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Large tree crashes onto school bus in Hong Kong, injuring three people

Large tree crashes onto school bus in Hong Kong, injuring three people

Tree crashes onto school bus and cars in Hong Kong, driver and passenger narrowly escape serious injury

  • Online video shows massive tree crashing onto bus, smashing its windscreen and crushing the front of the vehicle; no pupils were on board
  • Root rot may be cause of collapse; condition can take up to a decade to develop

A Hong Kong school bus driver and his passenger cheated death by inches on Friday after a massive tree crashed onto his vehicle and hit three other cars.

“I was waiting for the green light, suddenly there was a shadow, and then the tree collapsed in front of me with a big bang,” the bus driver told reporters. “The situation was very chaotic, but fortunately I got only scratches, no major injuries.”

The bus driver, 62, and the passenger were travelling along Perth Street in Ho Man Tin, on the way to pick up pupils when the 15 metre flame tree toppled at 7.40am.

The incident occurred outside a school. Photo: Facebook

The passenger, a nanny, said: “The door was locked. I also scratched my feet and was stung by glass. The school bus was most severely damaged. We were ready to pick up kindergarten pupils in Whampoa.”

As the duo were waiting in their vehicle at a red light outside Hop Yat Church School near the junction with Princess Margaret Road, the tree on the pavement fell and hit the bus, a Mercedes-Benz and two other cars.

A video posted online shows the tree, about a metre in diameter, suddenly falling over, striking the front of the schools bus and crushing its windscreen. The roof of the Mercedes-Benz, which was beside the bus, was also hit.

In the footage, some pupils are seen walking past the tree just before it collapses. Police said no pedestrians were hurt.

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A spokeswoman for the force said the driver of the school bus suffered hand abrasions and the nanny sustained leg injuries from flying glass fragments. No pupils were on board the vehicle at the time.

Both were tended to by paramedics at the scene and did not require hospital treatment.

A 44-year-old man – the driver of one of the cars – complained of pain around his waistline and was taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Yau Ma Tei for treatment.

Ken So Kwok-yin, chief executive of the Conservancy Association, said the major cause of the tree collapse appeared to be serious root rot.

“As there are no obvious defects or signs that can be found above ground, the problem is underground. Likely it was caused by various road or utility works that damaged the roots,” he said.

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He added the damage in the tree roots then developed into decay, but serious root rot usually took up to a decade to become a problem. So said the condition was hard to detect as it was underground.

So said the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, which is responsible for the tree management, should be held accountable for the accident and find out the cause of the collapse.

He added the government should set up a tree failure database to collect information on causes and tree species from similar accidents that had happened in the past.

“With a database, we can then analyse these cases and set up a more specific criteria to screen out trees with potential hazards,” he said. “In that case, we can manage the risk to a lower level.”

The Development Bureau said it was “highly concerned” by the incident and that its Tree Management Office had asked the Leisure and Cultural Services Department to complete an investigation by early October.

The bureau added the tree that toppled had been monitored and was inspected in April, when “no signs of decay were found on the branches, trunk and the surface of the tree roots...”

It said that 34 other trees managed by the department on Perth Street had been looked at and no problems were found.

The bureau said its tree management specialists would also examine other flame trees managed by it in the area to ensure public safety.

The section of the affected road was closed for traffic until firefighters removed the tree. Police said traffic resumed before 9.30am.