Coal tips in Welsh ex-mining towns are becoming increasingly unstable and are at risk of collapse like the 1966 Aberfan disaster which killed 116 school children along with 28 adults
Abandoned coal tips in Welsh ex-mining towns risk triggering another Aberfan disaster, warns a landslide expert.
Storms linked to climate change are making them increasingly unstable, sparking fears of a repeat of the 1966 horror which killed 116 school children along with 28 adults.
Almost 330 disused tips, mostly in South Wales, are officially classified as having a higher potential risk of collapse – meaning they could endanger life or property – following a safety review.
But as the UK and Welsh governments squabble over who should pay the estimated £600million cost of tip repairs, nearby homeowners fear for their lives.
Retired professor of geotechnical engineering Eddie Bromhead, a renowned landslide expert, told the Sunday Mirror: “They are right to be fearful.
“What surprises me is not how many of these tips fail, but how few. Would I live next to one? The answer is no. They’re a disaster waiting to happen.
“I can’t predict when or where but I’m certain there’s something nasty going on.”
Chris Mutch, 50, rears chickens at the foot of Old Smokey – a volcano-shaped tip named by locals after the waste coal which once smoldered at its summit in Stanleytown, Rhondda Cynon Taf. He said: “These spoil tips have always been a ticking bomb, and with climate change the clock is ticking a lot faster.
“We’re very wary of prolonged rainfall, because if the tip comes down there’s no way we’re going to outrun it.
“I’m responsible for four staff and I’m thinking of putting in a panic room below the building just in case.”
A mix of councils, the Coal Authority, farmers and environment watchdogs are supposed to make sure tips are safe.
But last month the Law Commission said the legislation is unfit for purpose.
The Welsh Government’s deputy minister for climate change, Lee Waters, said: “We have provided financial support to local authorities to repair and maintain coal tips. We have dedicated a further £44.4m over the next three years.”
But Mr Waters added: “It is wholly unfair and, frankly, untenable for Westminster to continue to argue that Welsh communities shoulder these costs.”
The UK Government said: “The Welsh Government received £18billion in the last autumn Budget and is more than adequately funded to manage its responsibilities, including coal tip safety.”