Thread: Club 27
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Old 14-09-2014, 07:08 PM   #305
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Lightbulb Aberfan

The Aberfan disaster was a catastrophic collapse of a colliery spoil tip in the Welsh village of Aberfan, near Merthyr Tydfil, on 21 October 1966, killing 116 children and 28 adults. It was caused by a build-up of water in the accumulated rock and shale, which suddenly started to slide downhill in the form of slurry...

For 50 years up to 1966, millions of cubic metres of excavated mining debris from the National Coal Board's Merthyr Vale Colliery was deposited on the side of Mynydd Merthyr, directly above the village of Aberfan. Huge piles, or 'tips', of loose rock and mining spoil had been built up over a layer of highly porous sandstone that contained numerous underground springs, and several tips had been built up directly over these springs. Although local authorities had raised specific concerns in 1963 about spoil being tipped on the mountain above the village primary school, these were largely ignored by the NCB's area management...

Early on the morning of Friday, 21 October 1966, after several days of heavy rain, a subsidence of about 3–6 metres occurred on the upper flank of colliery waste tip No. 7. At 9:15 a.m. more than 150,000 cubic metres of water-saturated debris broke away and flowed downhill at high speed. It was sunny on the mountain but still foggy in the village, with visibility only about fifty metres. The tipping gang working on the mountain saw the landslide start but were unable to raise the alarm because their telephone cable had been repeatedly stolen – although the official inquiry into the disaster later established that the slip happened so fast that a telephone warning would not have saved any lives...

The pupils of Pantglas Junior School had arrived only minutes earlier for the last day before the half-term holiday. They had just left the assembly hall, where they had been singing "All Things Bright and Beautiful", when a great noise was heard outside. Had they left the assembly for their classrooms a few minutes later the loss of life would have been significantly reduced, as they would not have reached their classrooms when the landslide hit: the classrooms were on the side of the building nearest the landslide...

The specific cause of the collapse was found to have been a build-up of water in the pile; when a small rotational slip occurred, the disturbance caused the saturated, fine material of the tip to liquefy (thixotropy) and flow down the mountain...

The Tribunal also found that the tips had never been surveyed, and right up to the time of the landslide they were continuously being added to in a chaotic and unplanned manner. The disregard of the NCB and the colliery staff for the unstable geological conditions and its failure to act after previous smaller slides were found to have been major factors that contributed to the catastrophe..The NCB was ordered to pay compensation to the families at the rate of £500 per child. Nine senior NCB staff were named as having some degree of responsibility for the accident, but no NCB staff were ever demoted, sacked or prosecuted, and Lord Robens and the entire Board of the NCB retained their positions...

In 1997 the incoming Labour government of Tony Blair paid back the £150,000 that had been misappropriated from the Disaster Fund by Lord Robens (as outlined in the 1966 Davies Report)..In 2005 Imperial Tobacco settled out of court to end a wrongful dismissal suit brought against the company by Aberfan survivor Janice Evans, who had been employed by Imperial's Rizla cigarette paper factory near Pontypridd. Evans had been sacked after she refused to continue working night shifts, alleging that it had brought on flashbacks of her ordeal in 1966, when she had been buried waist-deep in the landslide while walking to school. Although Evans survived, a friend who had been walking with her was killed..

The traumatic effects of the disaster on the village of Aberfan were wide-ranging and profound, as the first-hand accounts gathered by Iain McLean and Martin Johnes indicate.. During the rescue operation, the shock and grief of parents and townspeople were exacerbated by the insensitive behaviour of the media – one unnamed rescue worker recalled hearing a press photographer tell a child to cry for her dead friends because it would make a good picture. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visited Aberfan on 29 October to pay their respects to those who had died.. The Queen received a posy from a three-year-old girl with the inscription: "From the remaining children of Aberfan". Onlookers said she was close to tears..

Aberfan's social worker later noted that many people in the village were on sedatives but did not take them when it was raining because they were afraid to go to sleep, and that surviving children did not close their bedroom doors for fear of being trapped. An Aberfan doctor reported that although an expected surge in heart attacks did not occur, the trauma of the disaster manifested itself in other ways – the birth rate went up, alcohol-related problems increased, as did health problems for those with pre-existing illnesses, and many parents suffered breakdowns over the next few years..Many suffered from the effects of guilt, such as parents who had sent children to school who did not want to go.. Tensions arose between families who had lost children and those who had not. One of the surviving school children recalled that they did not go out to play for a long time because families who had lost children could not bear to see them, and they themselves felt guilty about the fact that they had survived..

Anger at the National Coal Board erupted during the inquest into the death of 30 of the children. The Merthyr Express reported that there were shouts of "murderers" as children's names were read out. When one child's name was read out and the cause of death was given as asphyxia and multiple injuries, the father said "No, sir, buried alive by the National Coal Board". The coroner replied: "I know your grief is much that you may not be realising what you are saying" but the father repeated:

I want it recorded – ‘Buried alive by the National Coal Board.’ That is what I want to see on the record.. That is the feeling of those present.. Those are the words we want to go on the certificate..

The Llanddwyn Island Lighthouse marks the western entrance to the Menai Strait..The Menai Strait (Welsh: Afon Menai, the "River Menai") is a narrow stretch of shallow tidal water about 25 km (16 mi) long, which separates the island of Anglesey from the mainland of Wales..The strait is bridged in two places – the main A5 road is carried over the strait by Thomas Telford's elegant iron suspension bridge, the first of its kind, opened in January 1826, and adjacent to this is Robert Stephenson's 1850 Britannia Tubular Bridge..From the 1890s until 1963, the pleasure steamers of the Liverpool and North Wales Steamship Company would ply their main route from Liverpool and Llandudno along the Menai Strait, and around Anglesey..The Anglesey Coastal Path passes below the bridge.. The bridge has a memorial to the Aberfan disaster victims on the Anglesey side..

The final death toll was 144.. In addition to 5 of their teachers, 116 of the dead were children between the ages of 7 and 10 – almost half of the children at the Pantglas Junior School. Most of the victims were interred at the Bryntaf Cemetery in Aberfan in a joint funeral held on 27 October 1966, attended by more than 2,000 people..Shortly after the disaster children and staff at the primary school at Spell-brook, near Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire, collected £20 16s for trees to be planted on a nearby tip.. The forest plantation remains to this day...

Last edited by lightgiver; 14-09-2014 at 07:15 PM.
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