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Storm-hit tree crashes on car in Salt Lake

The Maruti Suzuki Swift Dzire trapped under the tree in Salt Lake's AA Block. Picture by Mayukh Sengupta

Salt Lake: A roadside tree that had been leaning since being struck by a squall on April 18 crashed on a sedan in Salt Lake's AA Block during a thunderstorm on Wednesday morning.

Residents of the block said their repeated pleas to the Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation's environment department to prune the tree's branches and put more soil at the base to stabilise it had fallen on deaf ears.

More than 100 trees had fallen in Calcutta and Salt Lake during the April 18 squall, which clocked 98kmph.

The Mexican Lilac (Sharanga in Bengali) in front of AA24 had risen to a height of more than 40 feet. Raj Shekhar Mishra, the owner of AA 26, said the tree was almost as old as the township.

The tree's branches had been dangling precariously over First Cross Road, opposite the Sector I post office, since the squall.

Alauddin Sheikh, 46, who runs a car AC repair shop from the garage space of AA24, said he was inspecting a Maruti Suzuki Swift Dzire when he heard a loud snap and instinctively jumped away.

"The driver had got off the car. I was about to enter the vehicle to run some checks when I heard a loud snap. I immediately jumped off and saw the tree crash on the car. I would have died had I not jumped," said Sheikh.

Mishra, who was about to step out with his family when the tree came crashing down, said he had written multiple times to the local councillor and mayoral council member in charge of environment, Rahima Biwi Mondal, to trim the branches to reduce the load on the trunk.

"I made at least a dozen visits to the civic body, where I was made to run from one department to another. Mondal had promised to take action and trim the tree but did nothing. It is a miracle that no one was killed or injured today," Mishra said.

According to Mishra, several other residents of the block had visited the corporation and pleaded with officials to trim the branches and stabilise the tree by dumping soil at the base.

Asked why the civic body had not taken any action to prevent the tree from falling, mayoral council member Mondal first said the forest department had not given permission to trim the branches.

Then she said: "Trees are trimmed in winter. The AA Block tree would have died had we trimmed the branches. Besides, we don't have enough manpower to trim all trees in Salt Lake.... The car should not have been parked under the tree."

An official in the forest department said an urban local body did not require permission to trim trees. "Permits are required only for chopping off trees," the official said.

The Trinamul councillor of ward 41, Anindya Chatterjee, put the blame on the civic environment department. "Mondal cited various reasons for inaction, such as lack of manpower and labourers going on leave to cast their votes in the panchayat elections," Chatterjee told Metro.

On Wednesday, a civic team chopped off an eucalyptus tree that fell on the Second Cross Road in BB Block, near island number 3 and opposite the Calcutta 64 café.

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