On Friday it will be the 50th anniversary of one of the worst mining disasters that happened in my country, Wales (UK). In Wales we only have to say the name of the village and straight away we think of this terrible catastrophic disaster. To the outside world it was known as 'The village that lost its children'. The Aberfan disaster killed 144 people.
Aberfan is a small Welsh mining village. The disaster happened because of the waste from the coal mine was stacked up in a pile, like a mountain of mud and rubble, but there was a problem with where they were putting the waste, there was a natural stream underneath the mountain of waste which made it unsafe! The other problem was due to the fact that Aberfan had suffered days of heavy rain, the build up of water resulted in the mountain of waste coming apart and creating a landslide! This landslide went straight down the hill into the village of Aberfan, and the main building in its way was a primary school.
50 years ago on 21st October, at 9:15 in the morning, the classrooms at Pantglas junior school got buried in thick mud and rubble from the coal mine. The children were buried alive. 116 children aged between 7 and 10 died that morning, along with 4 teachers, and some local residents. There was so much debris/rubbish, it would take a full 7 days to get all the bodies of the victims, most of them were children. Most of the children died from asphyxiation (suffocation), and others had fractured skulls and multiple crush injuries.
One of the saddest things about this terrible disaster is, if it had struck a few minutes earlier the children would not have been in the classroom; and if it was a few hours later the school would have broken up for half term! The disaster happened so quickly there was nothing anyone could have done to save the children. During the rescue operation only a few children were saved, and after 11am on that day, there were no survivors pulled out of the school.
The parents had to live with the guilt of sending their children to school, and knowing that they died in such a brutal cruel way. Some parents felt huge guilt because their child was complaining about not wanting to go to school but they forced them, and by forcing them they sent their children to their deaths. Some children were saved because they were ill on the day and didn't attend school. When I was in college I did a project on Aberfan and I always remember reading about one of the little boys who died; the day before the disaster he draw a picture, in the picture he drew a clock showing 9:15, he also drew his school and then he drew planes dropping bombs on the hills surrounding the village! He more or less predicted what was going to happen.
When Queen Elizabeth II visited the scene with her husband Prince Phillip, a week after the disaster she almost cried when a three year old little girl gave her a posy, with a message saying, 'From the remaining children of Aberfan'.
On Friday (21st October), there will be a one minute silence at 9:15am to remember the victims of the Aberfan disaster. Please pray for them and never let them be forgotten. Most of the victims were innocent babies, may they all be resting in peace. Never forget Aberfan.