Aberfan the Mountain of Death a survivor’s story
Next week will mark the 52nd anniversary of one of the most catastrophic tragedies the world has ever witnessed. !The Aberfan Disaster!
The Aberfan disaster was a catastrophic collapse of a colliery spoil tip, in the Welsh village of Aberfan, near Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, within the United Kingdom, on the 21st October 1966.Tragically,116 children and 28 adults were to die, buried in their school on the last day of term, under a massive delude of slurry and rocks which hurtled down from a colliery spoil tip killing all within its path.
This is the true story of two young children who miraculously survived.
It was the last day of term for the pupils of the Pantglas Junior School and although it had had been raining incessantly for several days, little eight years old Gaynor Minett, was happy to join in with her classmates to sing “All things bright and beautiful”. This would be the last assembly before the half- term break.
Little did Gaynor know that within just twenty minutes, 116 of her class mates along with 28 adults would be dead? All would be buried under 40,000 cubic meters of slurry and sludge, a manmade disaster caused by the catastrophic collapse of a colliery spoil tip. The date is Friday the 21st of October 1966; the place is the small Welsh mining village of Aberfan, Wales.
Back up on the mountain it was sunny and the colliery tipping labourers continued spreading the waste rock and shale, all of which had been separated from the recently mined coal. They were all unaware that deep under their feet the mountain had sprung into life.
This manmade mountain, a mountain that towered over the Pantglas Junior School, had liquefied due to a massive build up of water from the previous storms. The workers could do nothing as they attempted to escape the torrent of slurry now rushing towards the school, the same school where they knew their children were. All they could do was to watch in horror, as the torrent of evil black sludge converged onto the school, burying it from their view. Pantglas Junior School was no more, buried under 12 metres (39ft) of black evil smelling sludge.
The horror of this tragic day is best explained by our little eight year old Gaynor Minett, one of the few survivors’ she would later go onto say; “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 reached the end of my desk when the sound got even 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”. Another survivor who was trapped beside her, a George Williams, remembers the horrific silence; He would later say "In that silence you couldn't hear a bird or a child".
Could this deadly incident have been avoided? Simply put yes. The official inquiry laid the blame firmly on the head of the national coal Board Lord Robens for extreme negligence, and for making misleading statements. The dangers of this manmade mountain had been known for years.
The official inquiry blamed the National Coal Board for extreme negligence, and it’s Chairman, Lord Robens, for making misleading statements. Parliament soon passed new legislation about public safety in relation to mines and quarries.
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Credits and Sources: My friends at Wikipedia for some of the stats and cover picture. The National Coal Board, Survivors George Williams and Gaynor Minett and the children of the Pantglas Junior School, as told to the BBC