Singapore

100-year-old tree gets the axe after safety inspection

Work to chop down a 100-year-old tembusu tree, to prevent it from becoming a safety risk, began yesterday and is expected to be completed by tomorrow.

The 30m-tall tree, on the grounds of St George's Church in Minden Road, was found to be of ill health and at risk of falling.

The church decided to hire an arborist to inspect the tree in July after a tembusu heritage tree fell in the Singapore Botanic Gardens in February, killing a woman.

"The decision to cut down the tree was made to safeguard the safety of parishioners, and the building itself," said a church representative.

An arborist found hollows in the tree's trunk. Its bark was also charred in certain areas

The tree had also apparently been struck by lightning several times over the years, the church representative told The Straits Times.

In response to ST queries, Mr Ng Cheow Kheng, group director for horticulture and community gardening at the National Parks Board (NParks), said about 20 heritage trees have been removed in the past five years due to poor health or storm damage.

To qualify as heritage trees under NParks' scheme, the tree has to be growing healthily, have a girth of more than 5m and hold botanical, social, historical, cultural or aesthetic value, he added.

When ST visited the church yesterday morning, there were "Tree Felling" signs warning people to keep clear, and diagrams showing drop zones where branches could fall.

The roofs of the church nearest to the tree were also covered with tarpaulin.

Project manager James Zhang, from Aedge Holdings, which was engaged by the church to remove the tree, said work had to be done in stages to protect the building, a designated national monument.

"Usually when branches are sawn off, they are simply allowed to fall to the ground.

"But in this case, because the branches extend over the church building, we have to secure the branch as it is being sawn off. This will prevent the branch from falling atop the church building," he said.

The church plans to use the wood from the tree for a memorial bench.

Built in 1910 to cater to British soldiers living in the Tanglin barracks, St George's Church was gazetted as a national monument in 1978 for its historical and architectural significance.

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