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  The New Paper 17 May 07
Jogger turned back when sky darkened
By Dawn Chia

Straits Times 17 May 07
Crushed to death on her walk to health
Dental assistant began walking thrice a week last year after heart scare
By Carolyn Quek & Michelle Neo

Channel NewsAsia 16 May 07
Heavy rain, strong winds caused tree to fall in nature reserve

Today Online 16 May 07
Two killed by falling trees
Ansley Ng

Channel NewsAsia 15 May 07
Woman dies after being pinned under fallen tree

SINGAPORE: A woman died after being pinned under a fallen tree at the Bukit Batok Nature Park.

The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said it responded to a call on Tuesday morning at 7.10 am. SCDF had to use a power saw to release the woman who was pronounced dead at the scene.

Two other women at the park were also injured by the fallen tree. They were conscious but suffered cuts and bruises. The two women were later sent to the National University Hospital (NUH) by SCDF ambulances. NUH said both patients might be discharged on Tuesday.

Channel NewsAsia 15 May 07
Fallen raintree in Bukit Batok kills one and injures two

SINGAPORE: One woman was killed and two of her friends injured, when a raintree in the Bukit Batok Nature Reserve collapsed on them Tuesday morning.

17-year-old Polytechnic student Quek Choon Kiat knew this route well – it was one that his mother, 43-year-old Ho Siew Lan, used to take for her morning walk. But Madam Ho's Tuesday jog turned out to be her last. A tree fell on her, killing her on the spot.

Her family only found out something was amiss some three hours later, when they got a call from the dental clinic where Madam Ho worked as an assistant. "The dentist called us at home to ask why she was so late and didn't turn up to open the clinic. So I quickly asked my son to come down and look for her," said Choon Kiat’s father.

Choon Kiat never imagined he would stumble onto the grim task of identifying his mother's body. "I saw the police and reporters there. I went to approach the police and they showed me my mum. And I recognised my mum," said Choon Kiat.

The area's MP, Halimah Yacob, is out of the country but her fellow MP came to offer help to the family, who were still in shock.

"Now the most important thing is to help the deceased's family to overcome the crisis. My grassroots members have also donated $2,000 to help the family tide this difficult time," said Ang Mong Seng, MP, Hong Kah GRC.

"My mum put in a lot of time and love to care for the family and for us. She worked hard all her life for us. She didn't get to enjoy life at all and now she's gone," said Choon Kiat.

Choon Kiat has an elder brother who is in national service. The family celebrated Mother's Day on Sunday with a simple meal and a stroll around their neighbourhood. - CNA/yy

Today Online 16 May 07
Two killed by falling trees
Ansley Ng

HE WAS a young physical education trainee teacher out camping in Johor. She was a middle-aged clinic assistant on an early-morning walk. In a space of two hours early yesterday, a freak twist of fate saw both Singaporeans killed in eerily similar circumstances, as the rain poured down on both sides of the border.

Madam Ho Siew Lan, 43, died when a huge raintree fell on her at about 7am, minutes after she had left her home for her usual brisk walk at the Bukit Batok Nature Park.

Two hours earlier, at Mount Ophir in Malaysia, 27-year-old Mohammad Rohaizam Tumadi was crushed after a tree crashed down on the tent in which he lay sleeping. In both cases, friends who were with them narrowly escaped with their lives.

Mdm Ho's family only realised something was amiss when the mother of two failed to report for work at 9am at the dental clinic, and the dentist called their home. Puzzled, her younger son and her husband headed to the park to look for her.

Then, husband Quek Lye Seng got a call on his mobile phone--it was the police, telling the shocked factory supervisor that his wife had died, pinned under a tree. Hurrying to the scene, son Quek Choon Kiat, 17, a polytechnic student, said: "I recognised my mum. There was blood on one side of her face. Added Choon Kiat, whose elder brother is in National Service:

"My mum worked hard all her life to care for us. She didn't get to enjoy life at all and now she's gone." Said Mr Quek, 54: "There should be investigations. Many people use the park on weekends."

Two of Mdm Ho's companions were injured in the accident. The women, both in their 40s, suffered cuts and bruises and were discharged from hospital after receiving 30 to 40 stitches each.

When Today visited the scene yesterday, the uprooted tree--measuring at least 40m long-- was lying across a jogging path. Two squashed umbrellas, one belonging to Mdm Ho, lay under its branches; there were bloodstains on the grass. At the edge of a slope lay the upturned base of the tree's roots, which measured about 10m across at its widest.

Regular park-goer Gunasana-kare Supramaniam reckoned the soil around the roots could have been loosened by the rain.

The National Parks Board, which manages the 36-hectare park, is investigating. Describing the accident as "very unfortunate", its operating officer Dr Leong Chee Chiew said in a statement: "Our priority right now is to extend our assistance to those affected."

The other victim, Mr Mohd Rohaizam, was a first-year post-graduate diploma student teacher with the National Institute of Education (NIE). He was part of a group of 54 trainees in an Outdoor Experiential Camp being held outside of Singapore for the first time. At about 5.15am, he was sleeping in a tent with three others when a tree fell on their tent during a downpour.

He was rushed downhill to the Tangkak Hospital in Johor, where he was pronounced dead. NIE director Lee Sing Kong said the institute would conduct a review of the incident.

The National Environment Agency has warned that more rain can be expected in the next few weeks.

with Additional reporting by Daphne Chuah

Channel NewsAsia 16 May 07

Heavy rain, strong winds caused tree to fall in nature reserve

SINGAPORE: The tree, which fell on three women at the Bukit Batok Nature Reserve on Tuesday, was a healthy tree, said the National Parks Board (NParks).

But it was a combination of factors such as strong winds, continuous rain over several days and softened soil which caused the tree to be uprooted. The 10-storey high tree collapsed on Tuesday morning, killing one and injuring two others.

When Channel NewsAsia visited the site on Wednesday, an even larger area was cordoned by the authorities to conduct checks on the trees.

NParks said Tuesday's heavy rain softened the soil, and with exceptionally strong winds of up to 70 kilometres per hour, the Albizia tree, which has weak roots, was uprooted. The tree grows in the wild and is not usually found in parks. Bukit Batok Nature Reserve, where the incident occurred, is a secondary forest.

Ben Lee, Head, Nature Trekker, said: "I would advise those who are going to nature reserves or parks to be careful and to look out for sounds and cracks within the vicinity of your walking space."

Other secondary forests in Singapore are mostly found in the central catchment area as well as on Pulau Ubin.

Straits Times 17 May 07
Crushed to death on her walk to health
Dental assistant began walking thrice a week last year after heart scare
By Carolyn Quek & Michelle Neo

SHE started exercising regularly only last year after being diagnosed with a minor heart condition. But it was Madam Ho Siew Lan's concern for her health that led to her death.

Madam Ho had signed up for yoga classes at the nearby community centre and also took up brisk walking three times a week every morning before heading for work.

However, that walk turned fatal when she was crushed by a falling tree in Bukit Batok Nature Park at about 7am on Tuesday.

The two friends she was with on that rainy morning - Madam Ting Kim Hong, 47, and Madam Leong Lai Ming, 48 - escaped with cuts and bruises. Yesterday, at Madam Ho's wake held at the void deck of their block in Bukit Batok East, family members were still struggling to come to terms with her death.

'I still cannot accept that this accident had happened. I've not been able to find peace,' said Madam Ho's husband, Mr Quek Lye Seng, 54. With one of the two breadwinners now gone, the family also anticipates running into financial difficulties. As a production operator, Mr Quek earns about $1,300 a month, while his late wife took home a similar amount as a dental assistant.

'It will be more trying from now on,' said Mr Quek. 'After all, both of us held jobs to support the family. But now one is gone.'

Brian, 20, the older of Madam Ho's two sons and a full-time national serviceman, said the family will be turning to Mr Ang Mong Seng, an MP for Hong Kah GRC, for help on the matter.

Mr Ang said on Tuesday that the grassroots members had collected $2,000 for the Quek family to tide them over their current difficult period.

Madam Ho's younger son Chuen Kiat, 18, a Ngee Ann Polytechnic student, is also thinking of chipping in by taking up a part-time job.

Staff and patients at Excelsior Dental Surgery, where Madam Ho worked as a dental assistant, have expressed shock and sadness over the sudden death of the hardworking woman. 'In fact, a patient praised her the day before she died,' said Dr Chan M.Y., one of the two dentists at the clinic. 'She said that I had a very good nurse and I agreed with her.'

Meanwhile, one of the injured victims, Madam Ting, said that she is still traumatised by the accident. However, the housewife said she will still go to the park to exercise. 'I will just avoid the darker areas of the park like where the accident happened,' she said.

When contacted by The Straits Times, the National Parks Board (NParks) said that it had investigated the incident and found the Albizia tree behind Tuesday's tragedy to be healthy.

Officials also said they were saddened by the unfortunate incident and would like to convey their condolences to the family.

Reports of falling trees and tree branches are not uncommon, according to NParks' records. In 2003, there were 2,333 reports, but this figure went down by more than half to 1,030 last year.

NParks said that its tree management experts conduct regular checks to prevent such mishaps resulting from harsh weather. Trees in parks like the Bukit Batok Nature Park are inspected once every two years.

The public can call 6471-7300 to inform NParks of trees that may be showing signs of stress or damage.

The New Paper 17 May 07
Jogger turned back when sky darkened
By Dawn Chia

WHEN he heard the howling winds and looked up, the overcast sky brought fear to his heart. Retiree Zhu Cheng Ji decided it was time to turn back.

It was about 6.40am yesterday at Bukit Batok Nature Park. Something in the wind stopped him from continuing his morning stroll, though joggers continued to run by.

Mr Zhu, 74, told The New Paper in Mandarin: 'The wind grew very strong all of a sudden, and leaves, branches and twigs started falling off the trees. 'I knew from experience that this was going to be a bad storm, so I headed home.'

He has been going for a morning jog or stroll every day for 25 years.

The strong wind and subsequent downpour felled at least two 15m-high trees, killing a woman jogger and injuring two others, around 7.10am yesterday. Hours later, Mr Zhu heard about the incident from some friends and decided to revisit the scene.

The sight of the fallen trees, crushed branches and scattered leaves sent chills down his spine.

The National Environment Agency said the strongest wind gust recorded over the western part of Singapore around 6.50am yesterday was 70km per hour. Such wind gusts usually occur during pre-dawn thunderstorms in Singapore.

Records show that the maximum speeds of wind gusts experienced in Singapore range from 60 to 85km per hour.

Today Online 18 May 07
Wet weather fells more big trees

This huge tree (picture) crashed onto an empty parked car and bent a street lamp at about 2pm yesterday at the junction of Rochor Canal Road and Syed Alwi Road. The owner of the car said that at the time he was waiting in his home nearby for the rain to stop so he could go out and buy lunch for his mother.

Meanwhile, another fallen tree at Sin Ming Road was reported to have damaged a lamppost and the roof of a shelter. No one was injured.

Days earlier, a woman was killed by a tree at Bukit Batok Nature Park.

With the heavy rain, minor flash floods occurred at two spots in Thomson, in front of Goodwood Florist and near the Toa Payoh Rise junction, said a Public Utilities Board spokesman. But unlike the heavy flooding that badly affected nurseries in the area in December, the waters this time subsided after 30 minutes.

The weatherman has forecast more wet days in the next two weeks due to regional inter- monsoon conditions. Moderate to heavy thunderstorms are expected. — Jasmine Yin

Today Online 18 May 07
Insurance plan to protect victims of falling trees?
NParks should act to prevent future accidents

Letter from Goh Kian Huat
Letter from Albert Tay Beng Guan

I refer to the report, "Fallen tree was healthy" (May 17). Madam Ho Siew Lan, a 43-year-old dental assistant, was killed by a falling Albizia tree at the Bukit Batok Nature Park.

It was indeed a tragedy that nobody expected would happen. As her husband earns only $1,300 per month, her family will face financial difficulties.

According to the National Parks Board (NParks), the Albizia tree was healthy and trees in nature parks are inspected every two years. This shows that regular inspection has its limitations.

Other than checking for trees that are diseased, should not the inspection officers also assess them on the grounds of whether they can withstand bad weather such as strong winds and torrential rains?

A tree that may be uprooted by strong wind should be chopped down, even if it is perfectly healthy.

In addition, given the fact that incidents of falling trees and branches are common — 2, 333 cases in 2003 and 1,030 in 2006 — it indicates that regular inspection of trees alone cannot help to avoid such incidents.

Singapore is a garden city, with trees planted everywhere. While we enjoy the shade provided by the trees in the parks or on the roads, we are also subjected to the risk of being killed or crippled by falling trees.

Our property, such as cars, may also be damaged.

NParks may not be legally liable for any injury, death or damage caused by falling trees under its care. But as part of its social responsibility, perhaps it should have an insurance plan in place to protect innocent victims such as Mdm Ho.

I refer to the report, "Two killed by falling trees" (May 16).

It is not the first time that trees at the Bukit Batok Nature Park have fallen during wet weather. Another instance was in January last year, when a number of trees fell on parked vehicles. At least one bus was damaged (picture). Thankfully, no one was hurt.

Must the National Parks Board wait for more fatalities before taking effective pre- emptive measures such as periodically felling older trees with shallow roots?

Related articles on Re-creation in our wild places and Trees in Singapore
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