Welsh mine rescue: Community still hoping for men

Mine rescue workers
Image caption About 50 emergency workers are trying to free the trapped miners

Community leaders say they hold out hope the remaining men trapped underground in a Swansea Valley drift mine can be found alive.

They were speaking after it was confirmed that one of the four miners had been found dead at Gleision Colliery.

It is believed the group had been separated while trying to escape the flooded mine on Thursday.

The Archbishop of Wales Dr Barry Morgan says the nation is praying for the men.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said: "We shall be praying for all those involved in the tragedy at Gleision Colliery - the men who are trapped and their families, the rescue services, and, of course, the one miner whose body has been found and his family.

"I hope and pray that there will be better news during the course of today; and meanwhile our thoughts are with all who are working for rescue."

The British Red Cross is now at Rhos Community Centre where the families of the trapped miners are being cared for.

Dr Morgan, a miner's son who grew up in a village close to the mine near Cilybebyll, Pontardawe, said he can understand the anguish the families of the men are going through.

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Media captionCllr Ali Thomas: "There is still hope for those trapped"

"I know they will draw strength from the community which is now enveloping itself around them," he said.

"They can be assured that the whole of Wales is praying for them."

He paid tribute to the workers involved in the rescue and the work of the Rector of Cilybebyll, Martyn Perry, who has been comforting the families.

Rev Peter Lewis, the area dean for the Vale of Neath parish, described as "calm" the atmosphere in the community centre near to the colliery where families have been awaiting news since emergency services were first alerted at 09:21 BST on Thursday.

'Extremely saddened'

The miners trapped 90m (295ft) below ground are Charles Breslin, 62; David Powell, 50; and Garry Jenkins, 39, from the Swansea Valley; and Phillip Hill, 45, of Neath. It is not known which of the men has died.

Mr Lewis said: "There's a lot of people coming in and showing their support. It's a very calm situation in there.

"The authorities are not giving any more information than they've given out and that's very hard."

Local suppliers have been providing food and drink, such as pasties and bread.

Simon Lewis, head of UK emergency planning and response at the British Red Cross, said teams had been offering support to relatives of the trapped miners at the emergency centre.

"We have witnessed a laudable spirit of community resilience as families; friends and fellow colleagues of the trapped miners have been commendably supportive of each other under agonisingly anxious times," he said

Ali Thomas, leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, has been at the scene all night.

"Families are under a great strain while the recovery exercise continues to find the other three," he said.

"Hopefully, when we do find them they will still be alive and well."

Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan said she was extremely saddened to hear that one of the miners has been found dead.

'Marvellous support'

"My heartfelt condolences go out to the families at this distressing time," she said.

Neath MP Peter Hain has also been at the community centre, along with First Minister Carwyn Jones.

"I've spoken to the families who are going through a small kind of hell," said Mr Hain.

"What's been made worse is that as has been reported, a miner has been found dead but we don't know who it is.

Image caption Cheryl Gillan (left) at the community centre on Friday

"It's almost worse than not knowing and our hearts go out to everybody - the families in the community centre and their relatives in the community."

First Minister Carwyn Jones said: "I have met with the miners' families this morning and they are showing tremendous bravery and resolve although they are under enormous strain.

"They are being provided with marvellous support from their families, friends and family liaison officers.

"I have strong family links with this area and am aware of the tremendous community spirit.

"This has helped shaped all our lives and our determination through the most difficult of times, such as this."

Plaid Cymru leader Ieuan Wyn Jones AM sent a message of support to families, and paid tribute to the "brave efforts of the rescue teams" working in a "hugely challenging and upsetting situation".

"The continued uncertainty must be hugely distressing for the relatives and the local community," he said.

"And our hopes and prayers are with the brave rescue teams as they continue the rescue operation."

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