A female tourist was killed by a falling tree while another was injured on Monday when visiting the Yuelu Academy, one of China’s most distinguished ancient academies, in Changsha, capital of central China’s Hunan Province, said local authorities.
The 200-year-old tree snapped and fell abruptly on the Dacheng Hall, where the deceased tourist and her companions were visiting.
A video shot by local firefighters who were on the site to rescue the injured tourist showed that almost half of the Dacheng Hall was flattened by the old tree.
The injured tourist had been sent to a nearby hospital for treatment.
“I heard a big noise from the rooftop, and then I saw people running out of the building. I knew something terrible happened, and started running, but the building collapsed before I could get out,” said the injured tourist known as Yue.
The snapped tree was a red maple which was 30 meters high and over 1 meter in diameter. It was one of the academy’s oldest trees.
“If the tree measures one meter in diameter, its core part (damaged by worms) should be around 70 or 80 centimeters in diameter. You couldn’t tell what’s wrong with the tree from its appearance. The management of the academy checked their trees every year, including those old trees, rare trees. But the check failed to detect the problems underground,” said Liu Su, professor of the architecture school of Hunan University.
Liu added that the weight of rainwater retained in the tree’s lush leaves after a heavy rain swept across on Monday also contributed to the tree’s falling.
Built in the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279), the Yuelu Academy is one of the four most renowned ancient academies in China with a history of over 1,000 years. Authorities now are leading efforts to repair the Dacheng Hall, while park experts are conducting thorough examinations on the trees in the academy to ensure safety.
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