Miners were washed away by ‘tsunami’ of water, says hero

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A RESCUER involved in frantic efforts to save four men in a mining disaster has described how they were instantly washed away by a “tsunami” of water.

Huw Jones knew one of the four men who lost their lives in the devastating flood which engulfed Gleision Colliery in September.

A major rescue operation got under way at the Swansea valley drift mine with hopes still high all four men had survived.

Mr Jones was among a crew which waded into thick sludge hoping to access areas where the men might have taken refuge, but Phillip Hill, 45, Garry Jenkins, 39, David Powell, 50, and Charles Breslin, 62, tragically died.

Mr Jones was a long-time friend of Gary Jenkins, having worked with him in a mine in Bath more than two decades earlier. He spoke of the tragedy yesterday after meeting the Prince of Wales who was visiting the Rhos Community Centre where the miners’ families gathered to await information during the rescue.

As royal patron of the Swansea Valley Miners’ Appeal Fund set up in the wake of the disaster, he received an update on the fund total, which now stands at £600,000 as donations continue to flood in from across the UK and America, Australia and New Zealand.

Mr Jones was among many who expressed gratitude at the Prince showing solidarity with the Swansea Valley community, and dismissed reports the September 15 rescue attempt may have been hampered by under-funding or lack of resources.

“I don’t think the rescue attempt could have been done any quicker or more professionally,” he said yesterday. “We cleared a hell of a lot of water and everyone worked together very well. It was not until we heard that the last person had been found dead that you realised how tired you were.”

In the end the force of the water which raced through the tunnel where they were working had an immediate and devastating effect.

“It would have been like a tsunami. They had no chance whatsoever. They would have been washed away,” he said.

Peter Hain, Labour MP for Neath, also a patron of the appeal fund, spoke of the Prince’s eagerness to help in the aftermath of the disaster. He also said the appeal fund would receive its largest single donation, of £73,000, next week, raised by Ffos Las racecourse.

“The families have been through hell and for the Prince to show such serious concern is a boost to morale,” he added.

Superintendent Phil Davies, said those involved in the rescue were proud that the Prince recognised their endeavours. “They all gave a massive team effort,” he said.