The government faced calls to improve the management of roadside trees after an Indonesian domestic helper was killed by a falling branch in Kwun Tong on Tuesday, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The 48-year-old victim named Jumiati was walking along New Clear Water Bay Road near Shun Lee Estate at about 7 a.m., when she was hit on the head by a branch that snapped off an Indian rubber tree.
The fallen branch measured about four meters long and weighed about 30 kilograms.
Responding paramedics arrived at the scene soon afterwards and rushed her to United Christian Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
It was reported that her family, including two children, in Indonesia were shocked after learning about what happened, and hoped Hong Kong and Indonesian authorities would help send her body back home for them to arrange for a funeral. She had reportedly worked in Hong Kong over the past 10 years.
In a statement, the Housing Department offered condolences to the victim’s family and her employer, adding that it was ready to provide assistance as necessary and follow up on the issue of compensation.
It said it had completed an inspection of the tree in question in June this year.
Kwun Tong district councilor Fu Pik-chun said several residents had reported falling branches in the scene of the accident before.
Professor Jim Chi-yung, a tree expert and research professor of geography and environmental science at the Education University of Hong Kong, said after an on-site inspection that he suspected the branch had fungal infection, causing it to decay and become fragile before it broke off.
The Indian rubber tree is about 20 meters tall and could be 30 to 40 years old.
Jim said authorities should send staff to inspect roadside trees at least once a year, using scientific instruments and not just their eyes to assess their health conditions.
He also called for tree-related regulations, including a licensing system for companies, groups and staff engaged in tree management.
Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan Suk-chong also cited the need for a tree management law for more effective regulation.
There are about 100,000 trees across Hong Kong, but they are managed only by a 41-member team from the Housing Department, Chan said, adding that only 35 of them have arboriculture qualifications.
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