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250-year-old ‘heritage’ tree crashes in top Chandigarh school killing one student and injuring 16

The peepal tree was near a gate on the Carmel Convent School campus in Chandigarh.

A 16-year-old student of Chandigarh’s prestigious Carmel Convent School died and 16 other school girls were injured when a 70-foot peepal tree, declared a heritage tree by the administration, fell on them on the campus.

The injured also included a 40-year-old woman bus conductor, who is critical and under ICU observation at the PGI. Some of the girls have sustained serious injuries such as spinal cord and hip fractures in the tragic incident on Friday. The deceased has been identified as Heerakshi, 16, a student of Class 10-C.

The UT administration’s role in tree preservation and removal of dead and unhealthy trees has also once again come under the scanner after the tragic incident.

The school authorities said the incident took place around 11.30 am during a short recess when some students were either sitting and having lunch or playing in the school compound when a portion of the tree came crashing down on them.

Standing 70 feet tall the peepal tree is 250 years old, according to a plaque installed on the campus by the administration. The old tree is reported to have been further weakened after a heavy spell of monsoon rain and gusty winds loosened the soil around it. 

A senior UT official said, “As per preliminary observations, the tree got partially uprooted and its trunk broke off as it fell. Bystanders said that the tree crashed so suddenly that the students didn’t get any time to run.

Interestingly five years ago, the Chandigarh Administration had assured the Punjab and Haryana High Court that it would remove at the earliest all public hazards, such as dead trees and potholes.

The Bench was examining whether lengthy procedure was required to be followed for removing lifeless trees when safety was an issue. The matter was brought to the court’s notice after a 20-year-old girl’s leg was amputated after a dead tree’s branch fell on her in the city’s main shopping centre in Sector 17.

In a late-evening health update, PGI said the health condition of the woman attendant, who is under observation in the ICU, continues to be critical. While surgery of one of the injured Carmel Convent students has been completed successfully, another student, who suffered spinal injury, is also stable and recovering, it added.

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