Aberfan disaster: Marking 54 years since disaster struck the south Wales village

116 children and 28 adults were killed in the disaster in 1966

Today marks the 54th anniversary of the Aberfan disaster.

At 9:13am on the 21st of October 1966, disaster struck the south Wales village of Aberfan when 150,000 tonnes of coal waste slid down a hillside, engulfing Pantglas Junior School and a number of neighbouring houses.

116 children and 28 adults were killed.

It was one of the worst industrial disasters Britain has ever seen.

The picture of this clock was unearthed by Western Mail photographer Godfrey Harris years after the disaster Credit: Western Mail/Godfrey Harris/PA Archive

It was the last day of term. 240 children and nine teachers were waiting for their first lesson to begin when a landslide of mud and debris flooded into the classroom.

Phillip Thomas was a ten-year-old pupil at the school and one of the only few to survive the tragedy. 

Philip Thomas was one of only three schoolchildren to survive in one class of 32 at Pantglas Junior School.

We didn’t know what hit us that day. It’s still hard to believe what did come down. Aberfan should never be forgot.

Philip Thomas, Survivor

Although Thomas survived, he was left needing hospital treatment for years to treat a variety of serious injuries.

Makeshift mortuaries were opened in local chapels where fathers came to identify their children.

Another survivor was eight year old Jeff Edwards.

He said that the events of this tragic day had affected him all his life.

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.

Jeff Edwards, Survivor

Bodies were recovered from the rubble in the days after the disaster by emergency services, rescue teams, tip workers and local residents.

Makeshift mortuaries were opened in local chapels where fathers came to identify their children.

The villagers of Aberfan held a mass funeral six days after the disaster.

A memorial garden was created to honour the victims of the disaster

A tribunal into the Aberfan disaster found that The National Coal Board ignored repeated warnings that the coal slurry would not be able to withstand a period of heavy rain during the winter, and was very likely to be a danger to the school.

They found that the National Coal Board were to blame for the disaster and the counsel admitted, “It need not have happened and should not have happened if proper site investigations had been carried out beforehand.”

Pantglas School has now been turned into a memorial garden to honour those who lost their lives in the Aberfan disaster.