Service remembers 144 dead in British mining calamity

BBC aerial image of the aftermath of the landslide

BBC aerial image of the aftermath of the landslide

Survivors of a Welsh mining disaster which killed 116 children and 28 adults wept as they observed a minute’s silence on the 50th anniversary of the tragedy.

About 1,000 people attended a memorial service in Aberfan cemetery – the final resting place of those who perished in the village that fateful day on October 21, 1966.

The graves of the victims of the Aberfan disaster in the village's cemetery in Wales, on the 50th anniversary of the tragedy

The graves of the victims of the Aberfan disaster in the village's cemetery in Wales, on the 50th anniversary of the tragedy

Those rescued from the debris of Pantglas Junior School laid floral wreaths in tribute to their lost classmates.

The emotional service, attended by Wales’ First Minister Carwyn Jones, came ahead of an official visit by the Prince of Wales on Friday.

A minute’s silence was also held across the country, with shopping centres, schools, hospitals and law courts coming to a standstill at 9.15am – the time disaster struck.

Ahead of the anniversary, Mr Jones had said those 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.

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

Youngsters in Pantglas Junior School below 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.

Several survivors and the relatives of those who died have since said their lives were changed forever since the disaster.

Fifty years to the day later, they climbed – some arm in arm – up the steep hill to Aberfan cemetery to attend a memorial service officiated at by Father Mark Prevett.

As the sun shone directly on to the bright white gravestones of the victims, the community stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the cold with one another.

Among those attending was Jeff Edwards – the last person to be pulled out of the wreckage alive.

Mr Edwards, who was eight at the time, had just picked a new library book and walked back to his desk when he heard a gigantic rumbling sound.

Speaking previously, he described hearing a sound like thunder.

He then remembered waking up and hearing the sound of shouts and screams.

Also attending were brothers Phil and Alan Thomas, who featured in the recent BBC documentary Surviving Aberfan.