YES­TER­DAY’S PA­PERS On 21 Oc­to­ber 1966, a man-made disas­ter in the Welsh min­ing vil­lage of Aber­fan claims a gen­er­a­tion of vil­lage chil­dren

History Revealed - - TIME CAPSULE OCTOBER -

The Welsh Val­leys were once a heart­land for coal min­ing, cre­at­ing a vis­i­ble blot on the ver­dant land­scape: heaps of shale and rock built up to hun­dreds of me­tres high, tow­er­ing over small com­mu­ni­ties. Aber­fan was such a place. With no reg­u­la­tions to stop col­lieries from dump­ing wher­ever they liked, waste piled atop un­sta­ble sand­stone, with a spring spout­ing from it. The res­i­dents had con­cerns, but th­ese went ig­nored, as they threat­ened the mine’s clo­sure.

On the misty morn­ing of 21 Oc­to­ber 1966 – the last day be­fore half term – the chil­dren of Pant­glas Ju­nior School were hav­ing the reg­is­ter called out. Though it had been rain­ing for the past fort­night, noth­ing could dampen the chil­dren’s spir­its, so ex­cited were they for the hol­i­days.

But at 9.20am, an omi­nous roar came from the hills just be­hind the school. The wa­ter-sat­u­rated heap was fit to burst, and be­gan to slide to­wards the vil­lage, reach­ing speeds of 50mph. Be­fore those in­side could re­act, the school was en­gulfed in up to ten me­tres of sludge, which quickly re-so­lid­i­fied. In the tragedy that en­sued, 116 pupils and 28 adults died.

Peo­ple rushed to the scene to re­trieve sur­vivors. A few were found, but there was not much that could be done. Though dona­tions to the Aber­fan Disas­ter Fund poured in from around the world, vic­tims and their fam­i­lies had to fight long and hard to ac­cess the money. It would be years be­fore an in­quest found the Na­tional Coal Board was to blame for neg­li­gence, be­fore jus­tice could prop­erly be served. How­ever, the vil­lagers – many of whom ex­pe­ri­enced se­vere psy­cho­log­i­cal trauma – would be for­ever haunted by the pre­ventable disas­ter.

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