This photographer captured the aftermath of the Aberfan disaster

  • Our Valleys Correspondent Hannah Thomas meets the New York photographer who captured the aftermath of the Aberfan disaster.

As a Merthyr Tydfil girl born and bred, I’ve grown up with the story of the Aberfan disaster.

None of my family were involved in it, save some family members who picked up their shovels and went to help.

But Merthyr Tydfil is a close-knit valley, and the impact of such a terrible event rippled out across the whole forty square miles of the county borough.

My dad - nearly 13 at the time - always remembers coming home on his school lunchtime in Cefn Coed, eight miles away, and seeing his ageing grandfather in his chair looking at the television in disbelief. He had never witnessed anything like this, and my father in his tender years certainly hadn’t.

A pile of tools used by rescuers at Aberfan Credit: PA/PA Archive/PA Images

Until 21st October 1966 though, Aberfan was a place that most of the world had never heard of.

Outside Merthyr Tydfil and the wider valley, it was unknown territory to many. It was a small mining village with a big heart.

But after this date, Aberfan became synonymous with the disaster, as people here and abroad saw the devastation it had caused.

Viewing those scenes at home in New York was young photographer Chuck Rapoport, a man now in his eighties. Chuck was incredibly moved by what had happened - so moved, in fact, that he made his way to Aberfan days later and spent weeks taking pictures of how the village coped with the aftermath.

He found it difficult. He wanted to create images showing the desolation of a town without its children. Except 116 children had been killed, and he found few on the streets of Aberfan. So exactly how did he go about it?

Well fifty years on, I’ve been hearing his story, and speaking to some of the inspirational people in his photographs.

Watch Hannah Thomas' full report below: