On Thursday 17 September, a retaining wall holding back a body of water collapsed in Taren Gleision drift mine near Pontardawe in the Swansea Valley. Of the seven men working in the mine three men were able to escape, but all of the remaining four miners tragically died. The four trapped miners were named as Charles Breslin, 62; David Powell, 50; and Garry Jenkins, 39, from the Swansea Valley; and Phillip Hill, 45, of Neath.
It is a distressing time for the families and friends of those who lost their lives and I send my sincere condolences to them. I would also like to pay tribute to the efforts of the whole community and the organisations, including the Red Cross and the WRVS, who provided support to all concerned during what were very difficult days.
The emergency services and mine rescue workers involved in the search and rescue operation carried out their work in incredibly difficult and dangerous circumstances. We are deeply indebted to them for their tireless determination and dedication.
The Cabinet Office Civil Contingencies Secretariat provided full co-ordination in the immediate aftermath ensuring all parts of Government with a role to play were fully appraised of the situation on the ground and of any actions that needed to be taken locally and centrally. We worked closely with the Welsh Government in the initial stages of the operation. The right hon. Member for Neath (Mr Hain) was present as events unfolded and my office worked closely with him in the immediate aftermath.
The South Wales branch of the National Union of Mineworkers set up the Swansea Valley Miners Appeal Fund as a trust to administer the donations to support the families of those involved in the disaster. His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales, has agreed to be the Royal patron of the fund. The Wales Office worked with the Charity Commission to assist the fund in gaining its charitable status, which was confirmed on 26 September. Until this point the Wales Office has agreed to reimburse the appeal fund for the funding it did not receive from gift aid contributions while charitable status was being sought.
South Wales police are currently the primary lead for the investigation and are working closely with the Health and Safety Executive. The gathering of evidence has been extremely difficult and dangerous. This evidence will need to be reviewed and the Government will continue to do all they can to facilitate a full investigation.