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  Today Online 2 Jun 07
Nature lovers continue trekking
Sheralyn Tay sheralyn@mediacorp.com.sg

FOUR people have been killed in the last month due to falling trees and branches, but nature lovers are not deterred from continuing with their regular walks.

The incidents, they said, while tragic, have been "unexpected" freak accidents.

The chance of being hit by a tree or branch is typically low, said Mr Ben Lee, founder and head of Nature Trekkers, which organises trekking trips.

On Thursday, a Vietnamese man was killed when a falling branch 20cm in diameter and a metre long struck him as he was walking through the Petaling Trail at MacRitchie Reservoir. Mr Nguyen Ngoc Quang, a Singapore Permanent Resident, sustained head injuries and died at the scene.

On May 15, a woman was killed when an uprooted tree fell on her in Bukit Batok Nature Park. Two Singaporeans were also killed by falling trees at Mount Ophir within days of each other.

In 18 years of hiking, Mr Lee said he has never heard of so many people killed by trees in such succession. "It is very unusual and bizarre," he said, adding that nature trails here are very safe and well-maintained.

But he noted that hikers must take safety precautions on their walks and be more alert and aware of the surroundings, especially in bad weather.

"Always bring wet weather gear, such as a poncho. If the rain is very heavy, seek shelter at low, man-made structures. Avoid tall trees and towers," he advised.

A spokesperson from the Nature Society's Nature Ramblers group also said it was a good idea for ramblers to do a reconnaissance of the a trail prior to a planned hike, and consider putting off hikes in wet weather.

The National Parks Board (NParks) has continued to assure the public it will continue vigilant checks on trees to ensure they are safe.

According to NParks, the number of fallen trees has tapered off over the years, down from 1,440 in 2005 to 1,030 last year. Pending investigations, the TreeTop Walk will be closed to the public until June 9.

Meanwhile, the National Environment Agency has said that moderate to heavy showers with thunder are expected in the late morning and early afternoon over the next few days.

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