SINGAPORE: One person died on Saturday (Feb 11) after a massive Tembusu tree toppled at the Singapore Botanic Gardens, interrupting an event organised by the High Commission of Canada that was scheduled to start at 5pm.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said it was alerted to the incident near the Symphony Stage at 4.25pm and that five people were taken to the National University Hospital.
Wow... massive tree just ripped and fell on the ground at Botanic Gardens. Hope everyone is ok... pic.twitter.com/VT6XolmGdS— Rave Republic (@RaveRepublic) February 11, 2017
The National Parks Board (NParks) confirmed in a statement at 8.32pm that one of the five had died. The agency also said it was investigating the cause of the tree falling.
"Our priority now is to accord assistance to the families of the deceased and the injured," it added in the statement.
Police said the person who died is a 38-year-old female Indian national who was there with her family. Her husband, a 39-year-old French national, and their two children, both aged one, suffered injuries.
The High Commission of Canada, in a post on Twitter, said it was "deeply saddened" by the death.
In another statement on Sunday, it also thanked "those that came so quickly to the aid of others following the accident".
Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam called the incident a "terrible accident".
"Our deepest sympathies to the family of the person who was killed by the falling Tembusu tree at the Botanic Gardens this afternoon. Hope the four others injured will recover soon," Mr Tharman wrote on Facebook at about 10.40pm.
SOUNDED "LIKE THUNDER"
Eyewitness Jonathan Ang, who was there for the concert, said he was sitting at the open area away from most of the trees.
"Suddenly we heard a cracking sound, like thunder," he said.
Across the main path, a tree fell "within five seconds", taking another tree beside it down with it.
"There were easily a hundred of us that rushed forward to help push the branches, the logs away," he added, estimating that there were about four to six people under the "huge" tree when it fell.
According to the Singapore Botanic Gardens' website, the Tembusu tree - which was 40m tall with a girth of 6.5m - is estimated to be more than 270 years old and is the largest of its kind in the Gardens.
Mr Ang said that thankfully, there were not many people sitting in the area as it was under the sun. Most of those nearby also appeared to be unharmed - "except for one poor woman, I'm not sure if she made it ... She was unconscious and her husband was calling for her."
SCDF arrived within about five minutes, and paramedics appeared to be trying to revive the woman, he added.
SUNDAY'S EVENTS CANCELLED
A note posted on the Canada High Commission's Twitter account at 5.18pm said the Canada 150 concert had been cancelled due to "unforeseen circumstances". The event was meant to countdown to the country's 150th birthday with a concert by renowned Canadian pianist Roger Lord and an opening performance by the Canadian International School’s Symphonic Band 9-12. Singaporean DJ duo Rave Republic was also at the Botanic Gardens.
When Channel NewsAsia arrived at the scene at about 5.45pm, police were seen on the site and the area had been cordoned off.
(Photo: Wendy Wong)
More than 20 workers were also seen clearing the branches from the toppled tree at about 6.15pm.
At about 6.30pm, SCDF added that it was working with NParks personnel in the search operation.
All programmes at the Singapore Botanic Gardens on Sunday have been cancelled.