Remembering the Aberfan Disaster

Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of a truly appalling tragedy:the disaster at Aberfan which took place on 21st October 1966. A colliery spoil heap in the Welsh village of Aberfan, near Merthyr Tydfil, underwent a catastrophic collapse caused by a build-up of water, and more than 40,000 cubic metres of debris slid downhill into the village. The classrooms at Pantglas Junior School were immediately inundated; young children and teachers died from impact or suffocation. In all, 144 people lost their lives that day, including 116 children at the school. The collapse occurred at 9.15am. Had the disaster struck a few minutes earlier, the children would not have been in their classrooms, and if it had struck a few hours later, they would have left for the half-term holiday. As it happened, it was a tragedy of unbearable dimensions, that shattered many lives and devastated the community. It was caused largely by negligence on behalf of the National Coal Board

The First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, has called upon the people of Wales to pause and remember the Aberfan disaster with a minute’s silence at 9.15am tomorrow (i.e. on Friday 21 October). Cardiff University will be observing this silence, and so will I. I hope readers of this blog will pause to reflect at that time too.

Here is a short video featuring the voice of Jeff Edwards, a survivor of the Aberfan disaster, recalling his harrowing experiences of that day in a conversation with Dr Robert Parker of the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at Cardiff University. Rob’s research looks at landslide processes, landscape evolution, catastrophe modelling and post-disaster assessment.

3 Responses to “Remembering the Aberfan Disaster”

  1. I remember this as clearly as I remember the JFK assassination, and 9/11. I was stationed in Germany, later, I was at Crickhowell in S Wales, and a local woman told me how her father had dug with bare hands to find survivors, she said he didn’t eat, or wash, he’d sleep a few hours then go straight back out to start searching again.

    • telescoper Says:

      I was born in 1963 so don’t have a direct memory of the news of this awful event, but it did have widespread consequences. When I was a kid growing up in Newcastle there were still quite a few slag heaps around and there was a lot of talk about the chances of “another Aberfan”. Legislation was brought in 1969 to improve safety, and that led to quite a lot of work in the 1970s ensuring that things were put in better order.

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