Drama as site of mine flooded: The week that was March 21 to 27, 1988.

Mining engineers and water authority officials were striving to prevent the Aire and Calder Navigation from becoming the latest casualty of an incident in which thousands of gallons of water flooded onto the site of Yorkshire's largest opencast mine this week.

St Aidan's opencast mine.
St Aidan's opencast mine.

It happened after the River Aire burst its banks in heavy rains, and staff were working through the night at St Aidan’s opencast site at Swillington, near Leeds, to try to prevent the canal embankment on the opposite side to the mine from being eroded by the torrent. Workers and millions of pounds worth of equipment had been saved just before the water washed through a 20ft breach in a bank into the mine. Further torrential rain was forecast.

It was announced this week in 1988 that a case of a second Aids virus had been found in Britain, but that the person infected could not be traced. The Department of Health said the new virus – called HIV2 – was so different to the original that existing tests carried out at blood transfusion centres might fail to detect it.

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A DSS spokeswoman said that HIV2 was so rare that the chance of blood supplies becoming contaminated was “infinitesimal”. This second strain was more common in West Africa, where it presented a risk to travelling businesspeople and holidaymakers.

News of its arrival in the UK came after researchers after found it in the blood of a person who had attended a clinic for sexually transmitted diseases in London. The infected patient could not be traced because of the anonymous way in which samples were tested.

Shadow employment minister Michael Meacher urged Labour to end the deepening class divide. He said current inequalities in the tax system had been intensified by this week’s Budget, and that Labour should back a national minimum wage of around £100, improvements in working conditions and the creation of a million jobs within two years.

In the meantime, the government said the Community Charge would give Bradford’s jobless a better chance of finding work when local firms benefited from a drop of around a quarter in payments when the uniform business rate was introduced in 1990.

Michael Howard, minister for urban affairs, told a Conservative local government conference in the city that Bradford’s Labour-led council was guilty of “waste and extravagance” saying the average two-person household would be more than £4 a week better off after the new tax came in.

The BBC bowed to pressure and handed over to police 40 seconds of untransmitted video footage of the IRA funeral at which two soldiers were beaten and murdered. Piling on the pressure, Mrs Thatcher had told the Commons that broadcasters were “either on the side of justice – or on the side of terrorism”.

After legal advice, ITN and Irish broadcaster RTE said they too would hand over tapes – which broadcasters were expected to do under the terms of the Prevention of Terrorism Act. However, the BBC said it feared for the future safety of reporting staff and film crews if the film was released.

The Yorkshire Post’s foreign pages reported that 51 seamen were feared dead after Iraqi planes attacked two Iranian supertankers in what could be the worst attack on shipping so far in the Gulf War. Dozens of Iranians working at the Kharg Island oil terminal, where the ships were docked, were also reported dead or injured.