Aberfan: 55 years on from the disaster that killed 116 children and 28 adults

On this day in 1966, 116 children and 28 adults were killed somewhere they should have been safe, at school.

Published Last updated

Waving your child off to school should not be a final goodbye but that's what happened in the doorways of over 100 homes in Aberfan 55 years ago today.

The mining village in South Wales is shrouded in a tragedy that most still struggle to talk about.

On this day in 1966, 116 children and 28 adults were killed somewhere they should have been safe, at school.

Welsh mining communities are no stranger to tragedy. Life as a miner came with obvious risk but what happened in Aberfan didn't originate from inside the mine, it came from the top of the valley itself.

Coal tips were known for sliding, but Aberfan’s tip number seven was cause for concern at 34 metres high on wet and porous ground. The National Coal Board repeatedly brushed aside many complaints.

At 7:30am, 55 years ago today, the tip had sunk by 20 feet. Two hours later, like a wave of darkness, it tumbled down the valley towards Aberfan and like an avalanche smothered everything within its path, including Pantglas school, and all the children inside on their last day before half term.

Mothers clawed at rubble hoping to find their child who they'd waved off to school just moments ago. Families were never the same again, some lost one child, some lost two.

Grief, resentment and anger flooded the village, which quickly became plagued with post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.

This was the first tragedy of its kind broadcast live into people's homes, which saw £20 million in today's money donated to the disaster fund.

But the same amount was handed by the government to the very body which was blamed for this tragic loss of life.

This was one of the only disasters where the Queen has been photographed crying in front of the public, only a single tear, but she was said to be very moved by what happened here in Aberfan.

This tragedy led to the review of coal tipping legislation across the globe, with the majority in South Wales eventually removed, but for the families and community who lost its children to the trade which built it, pain and haunting memories linger here, 55 years on.