Estonia calls Christmas tree fall, foul

2011-11-30 19:02

Tallinn - Authorities in the Estonian capital Tallinn said on Wednesday they had called in the police to probe suspicions of foul play after the city's Christmas tree fell down twice in the space of three days.

"We are looking for answers to two questions: whether cuts discovered in [the] lower trunk of the tree after the first fall were made on purpose and whether the life and health of people was endangered when the tree fell," City Hall said in a statement.

The 4.5-ton tree, located in the heart of Tallinn's picturesque Old Town quarter, fell down on Friday and again on Sunday.

The tree is close to traders' wooden huts at the city's Christmas market, a major tourist draw, but on both occasions fell away from the stalls.

No-one was hurt when it toppled, although a group of kindergarten children escaped by seconds on Friday.

After Sunday's fall, the tree was shortened by 4m at the base before it was raised again.

City Hall bought the tree for €650 from local farmer Hillar Klaus.

The 74-year-old grower claimed shoddy city workmanship was at fault.

"It's not the tree, but the people who put it up unprofessionally, that should be blamed," he told the daily newspaper Postimees.

"No wonder a 4.5-ton Christmas tree falls down when its base is cut to 36cm and put in a 1.3m hole," he said.

"I've been so upset about the news of the fall that I've decided not to go into Tallinn to see the tree in the Old Town at all," he added.

Estonia and neighbouring Latvia both claim to be the home of the first-ever municipal Christmas tree and have long exchanged friendly barbs over the issue.

Last year, as the Latvian capital Riga marked what it said was the 500th anniversary of its tree, Tallinn pointed to archives showing its own tradition started in 1441.

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