Westhoughton Pit Disaster
Coal mining has always been, and as evidenced by regular disasters in China and elsewhere, continues to be dangerous. On December 21 1910 the small town of Westhoughton, near Bolton , was devastated by the loss of 344 men - and boys - in a huge underground explosion and release of gas that killed all bar two of those working down one shaft at the Pretoria Pit.
The explosion happened shortly before 8am. Subsequent investigations found that a faulty safety lamp was the probable cause. The blast and rock falls killed many, others stumbled through poisoned gases until they could no longer move. Rescuers braved those gases to try to bring the few survivors out: two men found alive died shortly after reaching the surface; and one of the rescuers succumbed to the noxious atmosphere.
The male branch of many families was wiped out; in previously packed churches huge gaps appeared in the congregations; local sports teams could no longer field full sides. Among the dead were many teenage lads; most poignantly one of them was a 13-year-old on his first day of work.
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