Concerns over tree stability along city roads after falling tree kills one in Jalan Sultan Ismail

A thunderstorm in the heart of Kuala Lumpur this afternoon uprooted a tree, resulting in the death of one motorist, and injuring another. It also caused mayhem and gridlock in the city’s Golden Triangle.

The incident raises questions on whether local authorities, namely the Kuala Lumpur City Hall, had done enough to prevent the tragedy, including carrying out routine inspections on the trees lining the stretch.

The tree in question was mature, and like many other similar trees along the stretch, was believed to have been under the purview of the local council.

When contacted, a spokesman from the council said it was awaiting a report from its landscape department and would issue a statement “as soon as possible.”

Experts have previously said that trees in urban areas were more susceptible to being uprooted due to several factors, including insufficient physical space, and the selection of inappropriate species.

Last year, Bernama reported that trees planted in spaces with limited soil accessibility often had roots that were not strong enough, and had difficulty in absorbing water.

In the report, the former president of the Malaysian Society of Arborist, Professor Dr Ahmad Ainuddin Nuruddin, said in urban places, trees were often planted by roadsides and beside footpaths.

Ahmad Ainuddin had said that in such situations, the trees were not able to develop properly, causing them to become unstable. He said trees planted in forested areas or suburbs did not face such problems, adding that he has even seen a large tree species that could grow up to 30m high, being planted in an urban area.

“Such trees are at risk of toppling if their roots are not strong enough to provide support,” he was quoted as saying.

In a statement this evening, the Kuala Lumpur Fire and Rescue Department said it received an emergency call at 2.19pm.

The department’s assistant state director of operations, Fatta M. Amin said rescue personnel extricated two individuals – a 47-year-old man who was pronounced dead by paramedics, and a 26-year-old man who was injured, and rushed to the Hospital Kuala Lumpur.

Police later revealed that a 72-year-old Swedish woman, believed to be an ehailing passenger of the 26-year-old man, was also injured in the incident and was taken to the same hospital.

The Fire and Rescue Department said 27 personnel from three stations – Titiwangsa, Jalan Tun Razak, and Sentul – headed to the scene.

Seventeen vehicles were damaged, while the monorail track near the Bukit Nanas station was blocked with branches. The incident also damaged a bus stop by the roadside and a pedestrian walkway.

A Concorde Hotel Kuala Lumpur staff said the tree was a main feature along the stretch.

“It has been here for such a long time, but now that it is lying on the ground, you realise just how big it is,” said the hotel’s marketing and communications manager, Juliny Yusof.

Describing the incident as tragic, Juliny said several hotel staff who were having lunch nearby, rushed to the scene to help those trapped in their vehicles.

“An injured woman came into our lobby and we were by her side until she was sent to the hospital. There was also another woman with a pet dog who managed to get out of her car,” she added.

Rapid KL, in a statement, said that monorail services between the Hang Tuah and Medan Tuanku stations have been temporarily suspended, and advised commuters to use the LRT and MRT services, instead.