Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Trees have to be maintained for motorists' safety

LAST Thursday marked the anniversary of my father's death 15 years ago.

My father died while travelling in Jalan Tun Razak when a thick branch of the yellow flame tree, one of the fast-growing trees planted in a bid to quickly beautify the city years earlier, fell on the car he was in during heavy rain.

The impact crushed the roof of the passenger's seat of the Datsun 120Y where my father was seated and killed him instantly. My brother and mother, who were seated in the back, were also injured. Ironically, the incident happened a stone's throw away from the Kuala Lumpur Hospital. They were returning from Johor after visiting my sister. The car was driven by my father's close friend and long-time trucking buddy Lee, who was not injured.

I was told that when they arrived in Kuala Lumpur, it was pouring and the rain got worse when they were in Jalan Tun Razak. As there was no place to seek shelter and being an experienced driver, Lee decided to keep to the left lane to avoid posing a danger to the other vehicles. However, his decision proved to be one which he would regret for years to come. Although my family and I had put the incident behind us, come March each year when the hot spell brings on violent thunderstorms in the afternoons, I avoid driving in the rain and tell others to do the same. If I was caught in a storm, I would instinctively plot a path where there were few trees, doing so with calculated risk that the roads would not be jammed. Even when traffic was smooth, I would still switch my attention between the road and the swaying tree branches overhead.

I worry especially for those driving along certain stretches of Jalan Mahameru, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman and several other roads in the city where the Angsana trees planted a decade ago have grown tall and have a thick foliage. I keep my fingers crossed that their branches will not snap from the sheer weight of their rain-drenched leaves and land on some unfortunate motorist trapped in the jam.

Each year, around this time when rain is a welcome respite from the hot spell, I pray that the contractors tasked with maintaining the city's greenery had done their job diligently and not like what one reader who wrote to this paper last Monday had claimed. According to the reader, the roots of a tree had allegedly been cut so that the pavement around its base could be levelled. The tree had toppled and crashed onto a car. Thankfully, no one was hurt in the incident. Otherwise, there could be a family out there who would be grieving as mine did on March 4, 1995, with City Hall's public liability insurers claiming it was an act of God that caused my father's death.

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