On 21 October 1966, at approximately 9.15am, following days of heavy rain, a landslide containing forty thousand cubic metres of colliery waste slid onto the Welsh village of Aberfan, destroying sixteen houses and Pantglas Junior School. The tip slide demolished two occupied classrooms, the headmistress’ room, the cloakrooms, the staffroom, and the school toilets. Three further classrooms were breached. The slurry which poured from the walls engulfed both pupils and teachers.
A number of houses in Moy Road were directly hit by the landslide and carried away. Some of the remaining damaged houses on Moy Road filled with slurry to ceiling level. Water from two fractured water mains threatened to drown survivors caught in the wreckage.
At Pantglas Junior School, the only access to the children was through the windows of the assembly hall, or over the debris at the north end of the school. So many children were trapped that the area had to be cleared carefully by hand, primarily by miners or mine rescue workers. Among the things excavated were giant boulders, a coal dram, and the remnants of a farm dragged from the mountain.
It has been calculated that approximately one thousand to fifteen hundred people arrived at the village on the day of the disaster, though it is estimated that only around five hundred were directly involved with the rescue efforts.
In the end, forty-five people were rescued. There were 144 fatalities, 116 of which were junior school pupils.