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Probe into mining tragedy launched
An inquiry has been launched after four men died in a mining tragedy that "stabbed through the heart" of a community.
The bodies of Phillip Hill, Charles Breslin, David Powell and Garry Jenkins were discovered at the Gleision Colliery in South Wales on Friday, dashing desperate hopes that any of the men would be found alive.
Authorities will now switch from a search and recovery operation at the flooded mine to an investigation into the incident at the pit near Swansea, police said.
The alarm was raised early on Thursday after the shaft flooded, trapping the men. It had been hoped the miners - originally part of a group of seven - might have found refuge in an air pocket following the accident. The bad news came through gradually on Friday however, with police announcing at 6pm that the body of the last of the four had been found.
Fire and rescue and ambulance workers said they had never seen or worked in such conditions before. The men's bodies were found close together, one on the exit side of the blockage and the other three, which were recovered on Friday afternoon, in the area where they had been working.
The tragedy sent shockwaves through the close-knit Swansea Valley community, which had been desperately hoping that the last man would be found alive.
Peter Vaughan, Chief Constable of South Wales Police, said: "We've been humbled by the community spirit that's been shown during this most tragic of incidents," and asked for the privacy of the families of Mr Hill, 45, from Neath, and Mr Breslin, 62, Mr Powell, 50, and Mr Jenkins, all from the Swansea Valley, to be respected.
Swansea City Football Club will hold a minute's silence for the four miners before the team's Premier League home game against West Bromwich Albion at the Liberty Stadium. Chairman Huw Jenkins described the disaster as a "dreadful tragedy which has affected the whole community", adding: "Our sympathy goes out to the families who have lost loved ones in extremely sad circumstances."
Local people have begun leaving floral tributes near the mine. One card said: "There's a cry in the valleys, tears in the West, Mourning the heroes that wear the pit vest, Underground grafters always put in a shift, Below the hillside in the deep dark drift, They're not coming home to their children, their wives, The mine once again takes cherished lives, The coalfields of Britain all unite in your mourn, We're all the same breed, we're pit village born, RIP from the people of the Rhondda Valley."
Local Labour MP Peter Hain is launching the Swansea Valley Miners Appeal Fund to support the families of the victims. Mr Hain wrote: "The deaths of four miners at the Gleision Colliery was the worst mining accident Wales has seen for generations... Please give what you can to support the families."