Last week’s column on the Aberfan disaster

Last Friday marked the 50 year anniversary since the dreadful events in Aberfan that shook the nation. The tributes that were held last week to those who lost their lives in the disaster, and to those who were affected by it, were incredibly moving.

For a village to lose 144 people, 116 of whom were children, in one awful morning, really doesn’t bear thinking about. An entire generation was nearly wiped out and the repercussions have been vast, not just in Wales but the whole of the UK and the wider world.

Looking back on what happened on the day and the years that followed is a chilling reminder of how far society has come in such a short period of time. The treatment of those affected by the disaster afterwards was inexcusable. At a time where the wellbeing of bereaved families should have been priority, the effect the disaster had on people’s mental health was in fact neglected.

The National Coal Board not initially accepting responsibility is incomprehensible. The disaster was the result of criminal negligence and incompetence by the Board and the eventual acceptance of blame, albeit reluctantly, really pays tribute to the hard work put in by those who sought justice.

We are lucky today to live in a society where health and safety is prevalent, where counselling for people in need is readily available and where accountability and litigation represent two pillars of society. A man-made disaster to the scale of Aberfan is far less likely to happen in this country in this day and age. Society has certainly progressed for the better. Those found responsible for a disaster would rightly be denounced, vilified and prosecuted and those affected would benefit from an advanced support network.

The traumatic images and stories of what happened on that morning will live on. The lessons learnt from the disaster have significance today and we must always remember the bravery shown by the survivors and the families of Aberfan.