A fallen tree that led to the injury of 14 SMRT staff members who were throwing a Christmas party at Sembawang Park on Thursday (20 Dec) was scheduled for inspection in May next year, said National Parks Board (NParks) group director Chuah Hock Seong on Friday (21 Dec).
He added that the the tree — a 21m mature Erythrophleum suaveolens with a 3m girth and 18m — underwent its last inspection in May last year.
TODAY Online reported Mr Chuah as saying that the tree “appeared to have succumbed to heavy winds”, and that its size as well as the direction in which it fell were similar to another tree that also uprooted and fell on Thursday.
He added: “At the time of the incident, there was an intense thunderstorm with gusty winds in Sembawang Park.”
NParks carries out inspections and prunes trees within intervals of 12 and 24 months, which Mr Chuah deems to be “more stringent” than the recommendations made by International Society of Arboriculture, on top of regular checks during routine rounds of Singapore’s streetscapes and parks.
Such checks are “intensified” during periods of “adverse weather conditions”, said Mr Chuah, adding that “damaged trees would also be identified following any storm event”.
As a result of the stringent measures taken by NParks, Mr Chuah highlighted that the number of tree-related incidents in public parks in Singapore has reduced by approximately 85 per cent from 3,000 seven years ago to about 400 as of December this year “despite more intensive rain and stormy weather”.
Such incidents mostly involved snapped tree branches.
Mr Chuah added that NParks is also currently developing “modelling tools” to “better understand the behaviour of trees under varying environment conditions”.
NParks clarified that while the rest of the park remains open to visitors, the affected area will still be “cordoned off” for the purpose of tree clearance works.
Mr Lee, the husband of a lady who fainted and suffered a head injury from the incident on Thursday had earlier told TODAY: “I don’t understand how the tree can fall. Based on the photo I see the roots are not deep enough! I need an answer for that. My wife is injured now. I don’t feel good.
“Something is wrong with their maintenance. The tree is so old and so big, but they had to wait till the wind and rain hit before doing anything about it. This is a park, where children and family are supposed to feel safe in!”