Miners appeal raises £20,000 in one day

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The Independent Online

An appeal fund to help the families of the four men killed in a mining tragedy has raised £20,000 on the day it was launched, an MP said.

Prayers will be said in church services across Wales today as an investigation continues into the cause of the disaster at the Gleision Colliery .

The community has been left bereft by the deaths of Phillip Hill, Charles Breslin, David Powell and Garry Jenkins, whose bodies were discovered in the flooded mine on Friday after a massive search and rescue effort.

Neath MP Peter Hain set up the Swansea Valley Miners Appeal Fund, and last night tweeted: "We've done it! £20k in first day for Swansea Valley Miners appeal. Tks to everyone for their support."

Earlier, he described the incident as the "worst mining accident Wales has seen for generations", which was "a stab through the heart of the community".

On the minersappealfund.org website, Mr Hain said the bereaved families "need our help to survive and recover in the future".

Floral tributes were laid near the scene of the tragedy, including a poignant message from Phillip Hill's daughter Kyla.

She left a bouquet of flowers with card close to the mine where the miners' bodies were found.

On the card, she wrote: "Hi dad, I love and miss you forever. Love you all the money in the world and America. From Kyla x"

Kyla was comforted by other family members as they paused for reflection at the spot where dozens of people have left flowers and tributes to the four dead miners.

Another card from the family said: "Thank you for being part of our lives.

"Our girls will be safe with me. Miss you always. Donna x Meg"

A third said: "Phil, Kyla and Meg are in good hands, so sleep tight. Love Sadie and Brett xxx".

Former miner Wayne Thomas, from the South Wales National Union of Mineworkers, described his friend Mr Breslin as "strong as an ox and brave as a lion".

He told the Sunday Mirror: "To the vast majority of people, doing what those men did every day would seem like hell. But to them, it was a labour of love."

It has emerged that Mr Jenkins, 39, from the Swansea Valley, was the first to be found by emergency services, followed by Mr Powell, 50, known to friends as "Dai Bull", from the Swansea Valley, Mr Hill, 45, from Neath, and Mr Breslin, 62, from the Swansea Valley.

The tragedy sent shockwaves through the close-knit Swansea Valley community and people came throughout yesterday to the colliery to pay their respects.

One card said simply: "Rest in peace boys. Wales is proud of you xxxx".

People gathered at churches to light candles in memory of the men, and the Wales rugby team sent tributes from New Zealand where they are competing in the World Cup.

A minute's silence was held before the Premiership clash between Swansea City and West Bromwich Albion.

The Wales Office and the Health and Safety Executive have launched an investigation into the incident - with specialist mine inspectors already on site.

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

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

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.

But the bad news came through gradually on Friday, with police announcing at 6pm that the body of the last of the four had been found.

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 in the area where they had been working.

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 as a "desperately, desperately sad situation".

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 said: "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 added: "We thought in south Wales that the days of mining accidents were behind us but we were wrong."

Source: PA