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Unhappy PHOTOS-Aberfan Mining Disaster-116 Children/28 Adults Died

'The Lives of an Entire generation were Extinguished Before They Reached Their prime': Aberfan Falls Silent to Remember the 144 Victims of Disaster When Village School Was Buried in Landslide 50 Years Ago

  • Community devastated by Aberfan disaster fell silent today as people marked its 50th anniversary
  • Some 116 children died when 150,000 tonnes of coal waste slid down a hillside on October 21, 1966
  • It smashed into Pantglas Junior School in village near Merthyr Tydfil and 28 adults also lost their lives
  • The Prince of Wales will also meet families of some of the victims at a reception in Welsh community
Daily Mail UK, 21 October 2016


It was a horrifying landslide that almost wiped out a generation and will hang over this Welsh village forever.

Indeed, dozens of adults and grandparents in Aberfan were denied the chance to see their children grow up.
And the community devastated by the disaster fell silent this morning as mouners marked its 50th anniversary.


Some 116 children died when 150,000 tonnes of coal waste slid down a hillside on October 21, 1966.

It smashed into Pantglas Junior School in Aberfan near Merthyr Tydfil – and 28 adults also lost their lives.






Emotion: A man heads to the graves of those who died in the Aberfan disaster today with flowers, 50 years after the tragedy





Memorial: A woman carries flowers as Wales falls silent and the country remembers the Aberfan disaster 50 years ago





Emotional day: A day of events to commemorate the disaster today includes a service at the cemetery in the village





Paying their respects: Services of remembrance are taking place in local churches as well as on the site of the old school





Act of remembrance: The site of the old school in the Welsh village has now been turned into a memorial garden


And mourners returned to the Bryntaf Cemetery today with flowers as they recalled the country's darkest day.
The Prince of Wales will also meet the families of some of the victims at a reception in the Welsh community.

Prince Charles will unveil a plaque in memory of the victims of the disaster and sign a book of remembrance.
He will also visit the Aberfan Memorial Garden on the site of Pantglas School in the close-knit Valleys community.

Survivors will attend special memorial services and the rest of the country observed a minute's silence.





Memorial: Tributes are left at the graves of the children and adults who lost their lives in the 1966 Aberfan disaster





Graves: The school was buried in coal slag from a nearby colliery - and the disaster is remembered at the Bryntaf Cemetery





Gardens: The Welsh village devastated by the landslide fell silent today as people marked the disaster's 50th anniversary





So many dead: Visitors pass the graves of those who lost their lives in the disaster when the school was buried in coal slag


First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones said the adults and children who lost their lives should never be forgotten.

‘It is a truly heart-breaking moment in our history and no-one who learns about the disaster can fail to be profoundly moved by it,’ he added.
‘Half a century on, I hope the country as a whole will come together, with respect and compassion, to pause for a minute at 9.15am and think of the community of Aberfan.’

The disaster unfolded, following days of heavy rain, when excavated mining debris from the Merthyr Vale Colliery was dislodged and came thundering down the hillside on a foggy October morning.





'With us always': A moving floral tribute is left on the grave of a child who lost his life in the 1966 Aberfan disaster





Astonishing loss: Some 116 children died when 150,000 tonnes of coal waste slid down a hillside on October 21, 1966





Poignant: A sign marks the entrance to the Aberfan memorial garden in memory of the children and adults who lost their lives





Disaster: The coal waste smashed into Pantglas Junior School in Aberfan near Merthyr Tydfil – and 28 adults lost their lives


The waste material had been piled high on the side of Mynydd Merthyr - above Aberfan - for years, even though there were numerous underground springs below.






Youngsters in Pantglas Junior were just getting ready for lessons when 1.5 million cubic feet of liquefied slurry crashed into the school and a number of nearby houses with a tsunami-like force.



Survivor Jeff Edwards said the events of that day had stayed with him and his fellow classmates all their lives.

For two hours the eight-year-old was pinned next to a dead girl from his class, with her head next to his face.

He said:

‘What we've all experienced are classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. There's no doubt it has affected me on a daily basis.
‘I still have nightmares and sometimes suffer from deep bouts of depression.’

The tragedy was all the more bitter to deal with given that coal bosses had been warned about ‘flowslides’ prior to the disaster, and despite a 76-day public inquiry, no-one ever faced prosecution or even lost their job.

Insult was added to injury when a protracted row about removing other coal tips saw frustrated locals left with no choice but to take £150,000 out of a memorial fund to pay for the clean-up bill. The money was eventually returned, but only after decades of campaigning.





Digging: The coal tip swept downhill with a thunderous roar and destroyed the school and a row of houses in its path





Helping out: Rescue workers shovel the wet coal waste 28 hours after it slipped down the mountain in October 1966





Wreckage: Fifty years ago an avalanche of mine waste swept down on the Welsh village and killed 116 children and 28 adults





Shocking: Half a century saw the darkest day in the history of Wales and an incident which almost wiped out a generation


Plaid Cymru's leader Leanne Wood said the events before and after the disaster had changed the close-knit community forever.
She said:

‘The lives of an entire generation in the village were extinguished before they reached their prime.
‘A whole generation of adults and grandparents were denied the chance to see their children grow up.
‘Even half a century on, the facts of the Aberfan disaster are no less shocking, and resonate throughout Wales.’

Ms Wood said the people of Aberfan should be commended for the dignity and bravery they have shown ever since the disaster.





Landscape: The waste material had been piled high on the side of Mynydd Merthyr - above Aberfan - for years





Horror: Youngsters were just getting ready for lessons when 1.5 million cubic feet of liquefied slurry crashed into the school





Chairs piled up: One survivor said the events of October 21, 1966 had stayed with him and his fellow classmates all their lives


She added: ‘They endured unimaginable sorrow but maintained a community spirit and built a support network within the village which helped get each other through their ordeal.’

That community spirit will once again come to the fore - and in the glare of the world's media - on the 50th anniversary.
Services of remembrance will take place in a number of local churches as well as on the site of the old school, which has now been turned into a memorial garden.
The Assistant Bishop of Llandaff, David Wilbourne, will officiate at one of the services in Aberfan today.

He said:

‘This is a time for us to come together as a community, sharing grief which is still so sore, despite the passage of time, and giving thanks for the lives of every one of those who died in the disaster.’

How the photographer who took one of the defining images of Aberfan wishes he had never taken it
A little girl carried alive out of the Aberfan disaster today returned to honour her lost schoolmates - with her proud grandson by her side.

Susan Maybank's dramatic rescue by policeman Victor Jones was captured in an iconic photograph which was flashed round the world.

Now a grandmother, she took her ten-year-old grandson Mackenzie to the memorial service on the 50th anniversary of the disaster - to help keep the memory alive for today's generation.





Policeman Victor Jones carries Susan Maybank from the school as a woman anxiously looks to see if she can recognise her





The man who took the picture, Melville Parry (centre), is pictured with Mr Jones (right) and nine-year-old girl Susan (left)





Susan Robertson, who was called Susan Maybank at the time of the disaster, is pictured with her grandson Mackenzie, ten









Anniversaries: Susan Maybank with her children Stephen and Joanne in October 1986 (top), and in October 1996



Mackenzie was just a little older than her when he was given a school project on the 1966 disaster.


Quote:

MEL PARRY, THE MAN WHO TOOK THE PHOTO

Mel Parry took the photo of Susan Maybank being carried away when he was a trainee photographer at the Merthyr Express aged 18.




Mel Parry, who took the iconic photo

Mr Parry cannot remember taking it, but added:

‘I suppose instinct kicked in. It was one of those things, I just carried on thinking I had a job to do and just did it.'
He continued: ‘I wish I'd never taken it in all honesty, and I still do. If I hadn't taken it, everybody would still be alive and the disaster wouldn't have happened.'
Mr Parry, now 68, added: 'Seeing the photograph every year, it's a constant reminder. But as far as I'm concerned, I just block it out.'


It brought it home to him and his classmates how the tragedy struck claiming 144 lives - 116 of them children in the Pantglas Junior School swamped by the black tide.



His grandmother, now called Susan Robertson, said:

‘I'm overwhelmed at the way Mackenzie has taken such an interest in what happened and so proud of him.
‘It felt so right that he should come with me to the cemetery to lay a wreath because no-one should ever forget what happened that day.’

Ms Robertson and Mackenzie laid a wreath in the Aberfan cemetery and shared tears for the lost generation of children buried there, many of them her playmates.

A minute's silence was held at 9.15am - the moment when the coal tip swept downhill with a thunderous roar and destroyed the school and a row of houses in its path.

Hundreds remembered the dead at the commemorative service at the cemetery memorial led by the Mayor of Merthyr Tydfil's chaplain Reverend Mark Prevett and attended by Prince Charles.

Mackenzie, who goes to Tir-y-berth Primary School in the neighbouring Rhymney Valley, has always known about the disaster and his grandmother's connection.

But it was last year when he was nine years old - just a year older than Ms Robertson was when she was rescued from the school - that he became particularly interested when his class was assigned a project on the historic tragedy.

Mackenzie has been busy watching the documentaries, reading books and creating a scrap book about the disaster for a talk he gave to his 100 schoolmates earlier this week.

He told how his beloved ‘Nan’ Ms Robertson was rescued and how, aged 58, she still lives in the village which holds so many memories.
END








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