Fund created to help miner families

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An appeal fund has been launched to help the families of the four men who were killed in a mining tragedy in South Wales.

Labour MP Peter Hain set up the Swansea Valley Miners Appeal Fund and urged the public to make donations.

On the website, Mr Hain, who is MP for Neath, wrote: "The deaths of four miners at the Gleision Colliery was the worst mining accident Wales has seen for generations.

"This tragedy is a stab through the heart of the community.

"We can't even imagine what the families are going through.

"But they need our help to survive and recover in the future.

"So today I am launching an appeal fund to help support them and will be announcing other patrons shortly.

"Please give what you can to support the families."

The bodies of Phillip Hill, Charles Breslin, David Powell and Garry Jenkins were discovered at the Gleision Colliery yesterday, dashing desperate hopes that any of the men would be found alive.

The tragedy sent shockwaves through the close-knit Swansea Valley community.

Local people have begun leaving floral tributes near the mine.

One card said: "There's a cry in the valleys, tears in the West

"Mourning the heroes that wear the pit vest

"Underground grafters always put in a shift

"Below the hillside in the deep dark drift

"They're not coming home to their children, their wives

"The mine once again takes cherished lives

"The coalfields of Britain all unite in your mourn

"We're all the same breed, we're pit village born

"RIP from the people of the Rhondda Valley."

Another said: "Our love and thoughts go out to the families who lost their loved ones after this tragedy and will be sadly missed by many. RIP.

"As for Dai 'bull', who we knew well, this is hard to take in and cannot believe you are gone.

"You were an absolute star and a legend in your own way.

"You never failed to make anyone laugh and we will miss your laugh, that's for sure. Ha!

"We have some great memories with you and will never be forgotten.

"RIP Dai and behave up there!

"Piggy, Dan White, Dale Bean xxx"

Among those leaving flowers at the scene was Maria Spooner, Plaid Cymru county borough councillor for Rhos.

Mrs Spooner said: "I've spent the last two days with the families in the community centre, so this is the first chance I've had to come here and pay my respects.

"This is just something I felt I needed to do. The whole community is very, very quiet but everyone has been amazing in rallying round.

"I've just been up to the village to thank the shopkeepers for donating supplies to people at the community centre over the last few days."

Meanwhile, Swansea City Football Club will hold a minute's silence later for the miners.

The tribute will take place before the team's Premier League game against West Bromwich Albion at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea.

The club's chairman, Huw Jenkins, described the disaster as a "dreadful tragedy which has affected the whole community".

He added: "Our sympathy goes out to the families who have lost loved ones in extremely sad circumstances."

Messages of support have poured in from around the world, with well-wishers everywhere praying for some good news until the final death was announced.

Peter Vaughan, Chief Constable of South Wales Police, praised the community spirit.

He said: "We've been humbled by the community spirit that's been shown during this most tragic of incidents."

Authorities will now switch from a search and recovery operation at the flooded mine to an investigation into the incident, police said.

Officers described the sad conclusion to the rescue efforts as "the one none of us wanted".

The alarm was raised early on Thursday after the shaft flooded, trapping the men.

It had been hoped that the miners - originally part of a group of seven - might have found refuge in an air pocket following the accident.

The bad news came through gradually yesterday, however, with police announcing at 6pm that the body of the last of the four had been found.

Mr Vaughan said: "We've tried to bring this safely to its conclusion. Unfortunately the conclusion we have is the one none of us wanted."

Expressing his condolences to the men's relatives, the police chief said: "I can't begin to imagine what the families are going through."

Fire and rescue and ambulance workers said they had never seen or worked in such conditions before.

The men's bodies were found close together, one on the exit side of the blockage and the other three, which were recovered yesterday afternoon, in the area where they had been working.

Mr Vaughan asked for the privacy of the families of Mr Hill, 45, from Neath, and Mr Breslin, 62, Mr Powell, 50, and Mr Jenkins, all from the Swansea Valley, to be respected.

One of the three miners who managed to escape the drift mine when it flooded has been named in reports as Daniel Powell, son of victim David Powell, who was said to be the site's maintenance engineer.

Of the three who escaped, one is now critically ill in hospital. The two other men who were with him emerged largely unharmed and helped the rescue operation.

Prime Minister David Cameron described the tragedy, which is to be investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), as a "desperately, desperately sad situation".

He said the anguish of the miners' families was "intense" but that it was clear the emergency services had done everything they could.

Archbishop of Wales Dr Barry Morgan said the tragedy had moved an entire nation and the world - as well as striking a chord with him.

"My heart goes out to the families of those killed in Gleision Colliery," he said.

"The whole community is heartbroken for them."

Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan described it as "a truly devastating day" for the men's relatives.

"As the families grieve for their loved ones, we will do everything we can to support them, to identify how this terrible incident occurred and to learn lessons for the future," she said.

Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones said: "We thought in South Wales that the days of mining accidents were behind us but we were wrong."

In a joint statement, the Wales Office and the Health and Safety Executive said an investigation has been launched - with specialist mine inspectors on site.

"Following the tragic incident at Gleision Colliery on September 15, an investigation is now under way," the statement said.

"The Wales Office is the central government department with responsibility for retaining oversight on how the investigation is progressing.

"The investigation, which is routine for any incident such as this, will draw on technical expertise from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

"HSE specialist mine inspectors are on site.

"They are working closely with South Wales Police, who are leading the investigation and have appointed a senior investigating officer.

"When an investigation into the incident begins, initially the police will have primacy in accordance with the Work-Related Deaths Protocol agreed between the police, HSE, local authorities and the Crown Prosecution Service and HSE will provide technical support.

"At a later point it may be deemed appropriate for primacy of the investigation to be passed to HSE, as has happened in other incidents.

"It is too early, however, to say whether this will happen.

"A full report into the causes of the accident will be published in due course to ensure that any lessons can be applied.

"At this stage it is too early to state possible causes and we would urge the media to refrain from speculation."