A massive Tembusu tree toppled at the Singapore Botanic Gardens on Saturday (11 February), causing a death to a 38-year-old Indian national woman and injured four others.
The incident, which took place near Symphony Stage, interrupted an event held by High Commission of Canada which was due to start at 5pm that evening.
Singapore Civil Defence force (SCDF) stated that it was alerted to the incident at 4.25pm, adding that the five people were conveyed to National University Hospital (NUH).
At 8.25pm that evening, NPareks released a statement, saying that its team were holding investigations towards the matter.
It said, “Our priority now is to accord assistance to the families of the deceased and the injured.”
It was said that there were more than 20 people were working to clean up the mess at about 6.15pm that afternoon.
The police confirmed that the woman who passed away was an Indian national, who was there with her husband and their one-year-old twins. The three, along with other woman were also injured.
Radhika Angara, the victim who passed away, moved to Singapore in 2013. She initially worked at social and mobile payment platform Fastacash as the chief marketing and strategy officer. The CEO of the company, Mark Carter, described her as an inspirational leader who garnered huge respect from all whom knew her.
He said, “Radhika was always there to support colleagues through the Fastacash journey and will be deeply missed. Our condolences and deepest sympathies go to her family at this sad time.”
Currently, she is working at global payment network MasterCard as Regional Digital Marketing Head for Asia Pacific for almost four months.
The company said that she is a highly talented professional and “a rising star in her field”.
MasterCard senior vice president for Asia Pacific communications, Georgette Tan, said, “She had an energy and warmth that won her the respect of her peers and managers alike.”
While her husband, a 39-year-old French national, Jerome Rouch-Sirech, is working for sportswear brand Puma Southeast Asia as head of retail.
The company who have heard about the terrible incident wrote in a statement, “We’ve extended our deepest sympathies to Jerome on the passing of his wife and are committed to offering full support to the family during this difficult time.”
The three of them, along with a 26-year-old Singaporean woman, who suffered injuries have been discharged from NUH.
Pictures taken by Oniatta Effendi show how big the tree was. According to NParks website, the tree was more than 270 years old.
It was 40m tall with a girth of 6.5m, the largest of its kind in the Gardens. It was uprooted at the edge of Palm Valley in the Botanic Gardens, bringing down surrounding palm trees as it fell.
NParks stated that the tree was inspected two times a year, more frequently than other trees in the garden.
It also said that the tree was also protected by a lightning conductor and fenced off to prevent compaction of its root zone by visitors, adding that leaf litter was routinely applied to the root zone to encourage healthy root growth.
Cmmissioner of parks and recreation Leong Chee Chiew said in a statement, “We want to assure the public that we share concerns about the safety of our trees in the Singapore Botanic Gardens, especially in view of the recent spate of intense weather conditions.”
Palm Valley, which was the site of the incident, remains closed to public access owing to clearance operations and investigations.
However, it noted that the rest of the Gardens is safe for the public to visit.
Lead arborist Ng Tze Peng at TP Arbo Care told ChannelNews Asia that a combination of factors, such as the environment, climate and the tree’s condition, could have caused the tree to fall.
He said that Tembusu is commonly known for its hard and solid wood tissue due to its slow growing nature and that age does not mean that the tree would weaken structurally, adding that it could weaken due to wound or decay inflicted on the tree along its course of growth.
He said, “In order to determine the cause of the incident, (the authorities) would have to study the structural condition of the overall tree, especially its root system, the environmental and climatic condition at the time of the incident.”
Tan Huan Arboriculture Services managing director Andy Tan said that to ensure that issues such as fungi and termites did not set in, he would expect a tree this old to have been inspected every month.
However, he said that the tree was unlikely to have fallen because of this issue, since it would have taken up to two years to weaken such a big tree.
He added that tell-tale signs such as unhealthy leaves or termite tracks would be evident months before the incident.