Friday, 16 September 2011

Cilybebyll drift mine accident

I'm only blogging this because I am one of the few bloggers in Neath Port Talbot, and I assume it would be expected of me. Like many people I was up most of last night hoping for good news only to have those hopes chipped at by the sad news at 8:30 that one of the four trapped men had died. The fact that, because of the difficult conditions, the man's body could not be identified let alone recovered must add to the heartache of the family and friends of the mine workers. Worse is the uncertainty about the whereabouts of the remaining three.

But things are changing all the while and BBC News may well have more up-to-date news. I shall shortly be leaving for a council meeting. I doubt that we shall be at our best. There will be many members who have strong links to the community in Rhos and may even have spent time at the community centre last night. I recognised council leader Ali Thomas, Pontardawe councillor Mike James and Alltwen member David Lewis in the various broadcasts from Rhos and I have no doubt there were others.

Bethan Lewis, one of the regional AMs and a local resident, also contributed to the reportage. To their credit, all these people did not indulge in political grandstanding, which is a temptation easy to succumb to. Full marks to the two Conservative AMs who stayed off our screens and also to Peter Black AM, who could have broken his journey to federal Liberal Democrat conference starting tonight, but refrained from doing so.

One of the London-based interviewers last night wondered whether the mine was unusual. In fact, with the departure of deep mining, which is only possible because of expensive infrastructure, small entrepreneurs have reverted to one of the earliest forms of winning coal: identifying a seam where it is exposed and following it down. There are several such drifts in South Wales.

There is one final observation. As the helicopter shots show, this is not an industrial area, but farmland. If one did not know there were mines in the area, one could not guess from the small collection of sheds. Not far from the sad scene is the ancient church of Cilybebyll, set in picturesque country (the rector made a touching personal contribution to reports). When I lived in Alltwen, this was one of my favourite walks. The nearby village of Rhos and the Delffordd estate are attractive. There is no good place to have an accident like this, but the fact that it has affected such good people in such a pleasant area is all the more heartbreaking.

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