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1960s / Aberfan Disaster - 1966
At 9.15 am on Friday, October 21, 1966 a enormous mountain of excavated coal mining debris (known to coal miners as a waste tip) slid down a mountainside into the mining village of Aberfan, near Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales. The waste tips, which had been building up for 50 years, had become heavy and saturated due to a week of rainy weather. The debris slide first destroyed a farm cottage in its path, killing all the occupants. At Pantglas Junior School, just below, the children had just returned to their classes after singing All Things Bright and Beautiful at their assembly. The tipping gang up the mountain had seen the slide start, but could not raise the alarm because their telephone cable had been repeatedly stolen. (The Tribunal of Inquiry later established that the disaster happened so quickly that a telephone warning would not have saved any lives regardless.) Down in the village, nobody saw anything, but everybody heard the noise as about 40,000 cubic metres of debris crashed into the school at a depth of 39 feet. Gaynor Minett, an eight-year-old student, remembered four years later, "It was a tremendous rumbling sound and all the school went dead. You could hear a pin drop. Everyone just froze in their seats. I just managed to get up and I reached the end of my desk when the sound got louder and nearer, until I could see the black out of the window. I can't remember any more but I woke up to find that a horrible nightmare had just begun in front of my eyes." The slide engulfed the school and about 20 houses in the village before coming to rest. Then there was total silence. George Williams, who was trapped in the wreckage, remembered that "In that silence you couldn't hear a bird or a child." All able-bodied persons in the village rushed to the scene with whatever implements they could find to begin digging through the mess to search for survivors. None were found after 11 a.m., but it took nearly a week to recover all the bodies. The death toll in the Aberfan disaster was 144--of which 116 were school children. That accounted for about half the school's enrolment. Five teachers were killed too. An inquiry later blamed the National Coal Board (NCB) for ignoring warnings from years earlier about the potential hazards of the growing waste tips. Families of the victims were eventually compensated 500 British pounds by the NCB for each loved one who had perished.






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Posted By: Lava1964
Runtime: N/A
File Size: 436.3KB
When?: 11th June 2012
Tags: Aberfan Wales disaster coal
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