Aberfan Disaster - can anyone beat this for basic nastiness?

Last night I watched a documentary on the 1966 Aberfan disaster.

To refresh memories, Aberfan is the small Welsh town where, on Oct 21st 1966, 116 children and 28 adults were killed when a colliery waste tip slip down the side of a mountain and engulfed a school at the bottom.

After the disaster, a relief fund was quickly set up and donations poured in from all over the world.

The National Coal Board (the publicly-owned utility company of the time) was found by a government-appointed inquiry to be totally culpable for the disaster. They’d been tipping vast amounts of mining waste onto natural springs for ages, a bad idea in anyone’s book since it’s hard to imagine anything less stable to balance a million tons of waste on. Such a braindead practice was also completely against their own rules.

The government inquiry ordered the Coal Board move it’s other dangerous waste tips to safer regions. The Coal Board - get this - REFUSED to move them, unless the Disaster Relief Fund paid towards the cost! Amazingly, the government agreed and insisted that £150,000 (a lot of money back then) of sympathetic donations to bereaved families be paid to the #@&% morons who caused the disaster in the first place!

So, can anyone cap this for a true horror story of corporate greed?

I don’t have any similar stories, but I saw the same show – downright horrific. The pictures of the children being carried out of the wrecked school building were deeply moving.

Yeah I remember that well enough, and I dare say that those who ran the coal board can hang their heads in shame, certainly there were many in Whitehall(the top civil servants offices) who would rather not discuss it.

At first British Coal denied that they ever knew a spring was there and said it had come up after the tipping had started, the were incredibly arrogent but they underestimated the people of the Welsh valleys.

During the preliminaries to the fatal incident enquiry it became clear that the heads of the industry regarded the Welsh as ignorant and that they were the masters.

There were still the old patrician attitudes around at the time - that working class people should know their place and be grateful for whatever crumbs were thrown to them from the higher echelons, and the truth was that ordinary folk had little realistic recourse to suing companies for industrial injury, even when caused by breaches to the wholly inadequate Health and Safety Legislation of the time.

What happened was that a collection went around the whole of the mining industry, around 450000 workers and this was used to hire the the best legal representation available at the time.

IIRC this turned out to be George Carmen who already the most respected barrister on the legal circuit, working class people had never had such powerful advocacy before.

The Coal Board bosses tried to deny that there was any problem, then that it could not have been foreseen, then that conditions had changed, then that this was solely the responsibility of the local mine manager, but each and every squirm was nailed, especially when it was revealed that the Coal Industry’s own safety regualtions had been breached and there had been no adequate system of safety monitoring despite the legal requirement to do so.

Having been made, as a collective management team, to look incompetant lazy liars, in a fit of pique they refused to remove the still existant hazard.

The outcome was that the legal profession itself suddenly realised how poor access to legal representation was for the majority of people and subsquently legal aid funding became available.

It was a watershed because it showed the working classes what they could do if they banded together to bring cases against bad employers, the nasty little twist by the Coal Board served to motivate those who followed never to accept the crap they’d put up with for so long.

As for corporate greed and nastiness, I suppose another hot candidate had to be Union Carbide for the Bhopal disaster.

Union Carbide operated their plant in a way that would have been illegal in its country of origin and was only in that location because they could operate cheaply in this manner.

The chemical disaster killed around 4000 people immediately but many more have died later of its effects, plus up to 40000 seriously injured.

Union Carbide dragged out legal proceedings and then dragged out the compensation process all the while knowing that those affected were from the lowest levels of Indian society and that a large percentage of them would die in the waiting, and poor in Inida is damn poor makes poverty in the US look like a holiday camp.

This was condemned by several agencies but it saved the shareholders their money.
Despite the huge number of deaths only $470mill was actually paid in compensation yet had such an incident ocurred in the US the directors, managers of the plant would probably have faced charges of corporate manslaughter and that compensation payout would have been several times what it was.

Union Carbide were found to be negligent in the design maintenance and running of the plant, and it was also found agianst them that they knew it was so.

There is lots of information about it, try this link for starters,

http://www.csubak.edu/iems/floor/virlib/ResearchLinks/e-special/bhopal.html

Its just the rich industrialised nations exploiting the poverty of the third world again.