What with Welsh miners in the news and possibly becoming a feature of the presidential election, let us turn to a story of the death of four miners last year in a Welsh coal mine. Here is what Queen Elizabeth said in her Christmas message about the deaths:
“We’ve seen that it’s in hardship that we often find strength from our families; it’s in adversity that new friendships are sometimes formed; and it’s in a crisis that communities break down barriers and bind together to help one another,” she said. “Families, friends and communities often find a source of courage rising up from within. “Indeed, sadly, it seems that it is tragedy that often draws out the most and the best from the human spirit.”
This is the story from Wales of how the community responded:
A FUND set up to help the families of four South Wales miners killed in the Gleision Colliery disaster has almost topped £1m. The appeal was set up to raise money for the families of miners Phillip Hill, Charles Breslin, David Powell and Garry Jenkins just two days after the accident happened last September.
“It goes to the deep well of support and sympathy and really deep, deep anguish right through the communities of South Wales, particularly the former coal-mining communities, or existing coal-mining communities.”
The funds are being administered by three trustees – the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, the general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers in South Wales Wayne Thomas, and Tower Colliery saviour Tyrone O’Sullivan.
Mr O’Sullivan said yesterday: “It has been an incredibly surprising response. The effect it has had throughout the world shows that miners are still a breed of people that are very much respected, never mind where they are in the world.”
He said part of the overwhelming response had been down to the shock of a mining tragedy in Wales for the first time in several years. “It is clear that Wales had never expected to see a mining tragedy again, and it came as a shock,” said Mr O’Sullivan. “There are not many pits left in Britain, never mind Wales, and we had multiple deaths in this tragedy, and that caught everyone’s attention.”
But not all is well. Seems the systems for safety and rescue are outdated. Note this response by politicians to the death of the miners:
The government is today facing a rising tide of opinion demanding sweeping reform of its response to mine rescues. The calls for change come after the Westminster government told Shadow Welsh Secretary Peter Hain its response to the Gleision mine disaster, which killed four people, was satisfactory.
Mr Hain said the government’s response was “disgraceful” and mining leaders lined up to condemn an outdated system unfit for the 21st century.
The Labour Neath MP fears more lives may be lost in future mining disasters unless action is taken to give rescue services access to Treasury funding. Leading experts backed Mr Hain’s call and said there must be change in the present rescue system, which still depends on a privately funded rescue service and on cooperation between neighbouring mines, despite the fact that far fewer of these now exist.
Mr Hain said there is a “potentially lethal flaw in the resourcing of the Mines Rescue Service which the Government needs urgently to address”. He said he was alarmed by “disputes about paying bills” during the rescue effort at Gleision and the subsequent investigation and he alleged “serious tensions and problems which bedeviled the operation”.
The best report that I can find on the mine and the accident is at this link. I copy but two paragraphs:
The Gleision Colliery is roughly 18 km to the northeast of Swansea. It is Wales’s smallest coal-mine, with less than 20 employees. Gleision is a drift mine, a mine that is cut in from the side of a hill, so that it is possible to walk from the entrance to the coal face, as opposed to descending via a pit. In Gleision’s case a small railway runs from the entrance to the coalface.At 9.15 am on Thursday 15 Saturday an explosion at the mine lead to the collapse part of the roof of the mine and the flooding of a large section of the mine. At the time there were seven miners working at the pit, three of whom made it back to the surface and called the emergency services. One of these men was immediately taken to hospital, having ingested a large amount of dirty water; the remaining two remained at the mine to assist with rescue attempts for the four miners remaining in the colliery, who had been working 90 m below the surface at the time of the flood.