Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Families' 'hell' as pit body found

Rescuers attempting to free miners trapped in a flooded pit have located a body
Rescue workers at the Gleision Colliery in the Swansea Valley
People embrace after hearing that a body of one of the four men trapped in the colliery has been found

The families of four miners missing in a flooded mine are going through "hell" after learning that the bodies of one of the men, as yet unidentified, had been found.

Phillip Hill, Charles Breslin, David Powell and Garry Jenkins became trapped when the Gleision Colliery near Swansea flooded on Thursday morning.

Police said rescuers had located the body of one of the men but had been unable so far to reach and identify him. One trapped miner is the father of one of three miners who managed to escape from the drift mine when it flooded.

Earlier Neath MP and former Labour cabinet minister Peter Hain said the families of the missing miners had endured a "grim and harrowing night", adding that "they just want it all to be over".

At a press conference, police and fire officers said they had not given up hope of finding the other three miners alive. Chris Margetts, from South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, told reporters it was "quite possible the team has been split" and suggested the dead miner may have been trying to reach the exit used by those who managed to get out.

Desperate efforts to free the miners are continuing. Rescue teams were pumping water out of the pit, excavating blockages and shoring up the tunnels. Last night divers trying to reach the men were forced to abandon their attempts.

Mr Hain said: "I've spoken to the families - they've gone through a small hell. What's been made worse, as has been reported, a miner has been found dead but they don't know who it is so you can just imagine what they are going through. It is almost worse than not knowing - knowing a bit but not knowing exactly and our hearts go out to everybody."

The colliery is near Cilybebyll in the Swansea Valley. The alarm was raised at around 9.20am on Thursday, after Mr Hill, 45, from Neath, Mr Breslin, 62, Mr Powell, 50, and Mr Jenkins, 39, all from the Swansea Valley, became trapped.

The men - part of a group of seven - were stranded in a tunnel 295ft (90m) underground after a retaining wall holding back a body of water underground failed, flooding the shaft. Of the three who escaped, one is now critically ill in hospital. The two other men who were with him emerged largely unharmed and were helping the rescue operation.

Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan said she was extremely saddened by the news and confirmed the British Government would carry out a "full investigation". A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister said he was being updated regularly on the situation.

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