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Village falls silent in memory of 144 killed in Aberfan disaster

By Ben Wright and Claire Hurst

Published 22/10/2016

Rescuers form a chain to move debris in an effort to reach children trapped in Pantglas Junior School in 1966
Rescuers form a chain to move debris in an effort to reach children trapped in Pantglas Junior School in 1966
Prince Charles meets rescue worker Dennis Osborn as he visits the Aberfan Memorial Garden on the 50th anniversary of the disaster
Prince Charles meets Marilyn Morris

Survivors of the Aberfan disaster wept yesterday as they observed a minute's silence on the 50th anniversary of the tragedy.

Around 1,000 people attended a memorial service in the Welsh village's cemetery - the final resting place of those who perished on October 21, 1966.

A total of 144 people - 116 children and 28 adults - were killed when a mountain of coal waste gave way, engulfing a school and houses.

Those rescued from the debris of Pantglas Junior School laid floral wreaths in tribute to classmates who did not survive as the tight-knit community turned out in force to pay their respects.

The emotional service, attended by Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones, came ahead of an official visit by the Prince of Wales.

A minute's silence was also held across the country, with shopping centres, schools, hospitals and courts among the many places that came to a standstill at 9.15am - the time the disaster struck.

Ahead of the anniversary, Mr Jones said the men, women and schoolchildren who tragically lost their lives should never be forgotten. He added: "It is a truly heart-breaking moment in our history and no one who learns about the disaster can fail to be profoundly moved by it.

"Half a century on, I hope the country as a whole will come together with respect and compassion to pause for a minute at 9.15am and think of the community of Aberfan."

Prince Charles privately laid a wreath bearing the words, "Er bythol gof a chyda'r cydymdeiumlad dwysaf", meaning "In continuing memory and deepest sympathy".

He then visited the Aberfan Memorial Garden, where he planted a sweetgum tree next to one that was planted by the Queen in 1997.

The Prince spoke to local people before and after walking through the garden, with Aberfan residents recounting their memories of the disaster.

Marilyn Morris (64), who was in the last class of the senior school at the time, said: "He said, 'Were you involved in the disaster, did you lose any relatives?' I said I didn't lose anybody, but I was in school. He said 'God bless you'. It is appreciated very much."

Mrs Morris recalled being up to her knees in debris following the disaster.

"There's things I can remember now that I haven't thought about until today, the 50th anniversary," she explained.

"I have three daughters and I have never spoken to any of them about it. I knew nearly all the children here... we knew everybody in Aberfan.

"There were six children from my street that died. We just blanked it from our minds, nobody spoke about it.

"It was such a shock that we couldn't bring ourselves to talk about it, but now we are and we are feeling much better for it."

Delyth Hughes (77) also spoke to Charles outside the memorial garden, and said she appreciated his visit. "It is nice to know that they are thinking of us," Mrs Hughes added.

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