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Saturday, 21 October, 2000, 12:16 GMT 13:16 UK
Aberfan book reveals 'uncaring' government
The book recalls the details of the horrific mining tragedy
The first ever full academic study of the Aberfan Disaster - which claimed the lives of 144 children and adults - has been published.

The publication of Aberfan - Government and Disasters uses previously unpublished government documents on the fatal landslide in 1966.

The south Wales community was devastated when a coal tip collapsed, covering the village school on 21 October.

Authors Dr Iain McLean and Dr Martin Johnes used secret material released under the 30-year rule to reveal how the disaster was handled.

Forcing the charity disaster fund to pay towards the removal of the tips, was perhaps the biggest scandal of Aberfan

Dr Iain McLean, author and academic
Dr McLean said a key finding was the "extremely insensitive" attitude of the Coal Board and government of the day to the victims' families.

"They were treated as troublemakers and officials had no conception of the depth of the trauma the people suffered," said Dr McLean.

"This can be seen in the long, unhappy story in forcing the charity disaster fund to pay towards the removal of the tips, which was perhaps the biggest scandal of Aberfan."

The removal of 150,000 from the disaster fund was only rectified when Ron Davies became Welsh Secretary in 1997.

It was one of his first acts in office and he stated at the time: "It was a wrong perpetrated by a previous government - a Labour secretary of state.

"I regarded it as an embarrassment. It was a wrong that needed to be righted."

Insurers and institutions wrangled over liability the ruins of the school and nearby houses were left to stand for a year.

In contrast, parents of children received 500 each from the NCB and had to 'prove' that they were 'close' to their children before any payment for mental suffering were made.

Lord Robens, ex-Labour Minister and Chairman of the National Coal Board (NCB), refused to go immediately to Aberfan.

He preferred instead to proceed with his installation as Chancellor of the University of Surrey.

He later blamed the disaster on 'natural unknown springs' and later ran a media campaign to maintain his position as NCB chairman ahead of the inquiry report.

Cliff Minott, chairman of the Aberfan memorial fund, said he was delighted by the book.

'Wrong perpetuated'

He said the study confirmed that the government had no right to take the money for the removal of the tip out of the fund, which raised the equivalent of 18m.

Mr Minott said he believed thee would have been less bitterness if responsibility had immediately been taken by the Coal Board, which was found responsible after a public inquiry.

"They did return the 150,000, but there was not a halfpenny of interest from the money that was lost," said Mr Minott.

Aberfan had to wait nearly 30 years for an apology from the Charity Commission.

The book goes on to investigate subsequent disasters such as Ibrox, Piper Alpha, Zeebrugge, Hillsborough, Bradford and the Clapham and Paddington rail crashes.

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 ON THIS STORY
Dr Iain McLean, author and academic
"The coal board and government were extremely insensitve"
Cliff Minott, Aberfan disaster fund
"The government did return the 150,000, but there was not a halfpenny interest from the money that was lost"
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