SINGAPORE - Fourteen people were taken to hospital on Thursday (Dec 20) after a tree fell on a pavilion in Sembawang Park.
The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said it responded to the fallen tree incident in Beaulieu Road at 5.55pm.
When SCDF arrived at the scene, no one was trapped and the 14 people were taken to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital (KTPH) by SCDF ambulances.
Some of those injured are SMRT employees. According to their friends, the group of 17 people, aged between 19 and 44, were celebrating Christmas with food and drinks. They moved into a pavilion when it started raining heavily. The tree then fell on the roof and crushed it.
In a statement on Thursday, the National Parks Board (NParks) said that two trees were uprooted at around 5.30pm at Sembawang Park. The trees were a Tabebuia rosea, also known as rosy trumpet tree, measuring about 18m in height and 3.6m in girth, and an Erythrophleum suaveolens, commonly known as an ordeal tree, which is around 21m tall and 3.1m in girth.
The ordeal tree fell onto the pavilion at the park. There were intense thunderstorms with gusty winds in the northern part of the island at the time of the incident, NParks added.
NParks is still investigating the cause of the incident.
When The Straits Times went to the park, the pathway was completely blocked by the tree. Workers were trying to cut it down.
Ms Carine Yeo, 44, a supervisor in the transport industry, said: "My friends were trapped under the log and roof. We tried to lift the planks and pull them out. All had cuts and were bleeding. I am still in a bit of a shock from what happened."
Those who were not injured pulled the victims out and moved them to a nearby shelter.
"One colleague had to be piggybacked," said Ms Yeo, who was sitting at the shelter when ST spoke to her. There were wet clothes on the seat, along with a box of water and chips. On the seat were also unwrapped presents, a smudged cake and some ham.
SMRT's chief executive Neo Kian Hong was spotted at KTPH at about 10pm visiting the injured.
"We're just very concerned about our staff," he said. "We will definitely be there to make sure that we can support them."
Air-con technician Philip Wong, 55, told ST that his nephew, 30-year-old Malaysian Chan Chung Chern, suffered head injuries and complained of chest pains.
Mr Chan is a bus conductor with SMRT and was at Sembawang Park after his supervisor invited him and his colleagues to celebrate Christmas, said Mr Wong.
"They were carrying out their activities when the tree suddenly fell on the pavilion and crushed them all," Mr Wong said.
He was informed of the incident after one of Mr Chan's colleagues called him.
SMRT route controller Chandra Das, 28, was one of those at the gathering.
"We ran into the pavilion to hide from the rain, when suddenly the tree fell down. Everything happened in a second," she said from the hospital.
She added that her husband, Mr Navin Sangar, 25, also an SMRT route controller, required stitches on his forehead.
When the tree fell, there were sharp edges poking into the pavilion. None of them tried to push the tree up, and those who could move slowly crawled out from underneath, said Ms Chandra, who was visibly shaken.
Mr Lim Hock Lye, the owner of Beaulieu House restaurant in Sembawang Park, told ST that the area around the fallen tree was barricaded when he arrived at his restaurant at around 6.30pm.
The 64 year old said that there was a “terrible thunderstorm” that started at around 5pm, but the rain had eased by 6.30pm.
He said that on Sunday, a tree in Sembawang was struck by lightning, but he was not aware if there were any injuries.
The northern part of the island experienced moderate to heavy thundery showers with gusty wind, the National Environment Agency said in a tweet.
In January, extreme weather conditions with intense rain and strong winds were reported in the north and north-eastern parts of Singapore, which led to flash floods and more than 200 reports of falling trees.
Sembawang was one of the areas which was affected by winds of more than 70kmh and heavy rain.
In addition, several trees were completely uprooted and obstructed pathways in Yishun Park.
“To prepare for such weather events, NParks has strengthened our management of trees by replacing storm-vulnerable trees, and carrying out targeted pruning and crown reduction prior to the monsoon season,” NParks streetscape group director Oh Cheow Sheng told ST in January.
In September, four vehicles were damaged when a five-storey tall tree fell in Hougang after a storm. There were no injuries reported.