Saturday will be the 40th anniversary of the worst Welsh disaster of the 20th century. At around 9:15am on the 21st October 1966, slag heap No. 7 which was perched above the village became waterlogged with a combination of recent heavy rain and underground springs slid down the hill into the village of Aberfan, destroying two streets of houses and burying the Primary school and part of the nearby Secondary school. In all, 144 people were killed – 116 of which were children. Aberfan disaster - With thanks to
The picture here shows the extent of the disaster. In the months that followed the Inquiry found the NCB to be wholly negligent in their maintenance, and yet nobody was so much as disciplined. This website has some fascinating reports on why this was so.

Finally, the compensation awarded to the parents was only £500 per child, less what money they had received from the Aberfan Disaster Fund. The disaster fund itself was the subject of controversy, when the NCB refused to pay for teh removal of the other tips. The government offered £250,000, and the NCB contributed a further £250,000 but the government of the time forced the Disaster Fund to contribute £150,000 of its own money – a payment that was not refunded until Ron Davies came to power as the Welsh Secretary in 1997.

This is a story of several disasters, all of which were avoidable. In today’s society, the NCB would likely face criminal prosecution for corporate manslaughter but, as the saying goes, yesterday is a different country.

Last night I watched two programmes on Sky+, one from S4C with Rhys Ifans commenting and one from HTV following the return of I.C. Rapoport – an American journalist that captured the aftermath on film for Life magazine. The images and programmes are truly harrowing. I’m sure tonight’s training will be difficult, as a number of the members of the team were at Aberfan, helping to dig the bodies of the children out of the slurry.
In this day and age I would hope that, in this country at least, the concept of Corporate-Social Responsibility would prevent somethign like this from happening again. Those of you who read this: think. Your actions as individuals and as part of a corporation can have far-reaching impacts. Let’s not let Aberfan happen to anyone else.

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