Aberfan families offered just pounds 50

Click to follow
The Independent Online
FAMILIES bereaved in the Aberfan disaster, in which 116 children and 28 adults died, were initially offered pounds 50 compensation each by the National Coal Board, writes Tony Heath.

This emerged yesterday on the eve of the unveiling at Merthyr Tydfil of archive material not seen for more than 30 years. Eventually the NCB paid a total of pounds 160,000 - pounds 500 for each child, money for traumatised survivors and compensation for damage to property. The disaster, on 21 October 1966, buried Pantglas school under an avalanche of colliery waste when a tip above the village collapsed.

Much of the new material now open to public scrutiny was discovered by Iain McLean, professor of politics at Nuffield College, Oxford. It was released under the 30-year rule at the Public Record Office, Kew.

His research assistant, Martin Johnes, spent four months sorting through a mass of documents discovered at Merthyr library.

The 73 files of evidence taken at the subsequent inquiry tell part of the story. Boxes of reports, council minutes and correspondence between the NCB and Merthyr council concerning tip safety long pre-date the disaster. A yellowing cutting from the Merthyr Express of 10 September 1960 records residents' fears, with the NCB responding that the tip posed no danger. Hundreds of letters from residents, some written in the 1950s, foresaw the disaster.