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Welsh Government Calls On Westminster To Help Fund Safety Of Coal Tips

Welsh

Welsh government calls on Westminster to help fund safety of coal tips

Every time it rains heavily, Cllr Robert Bevan’s phone starts ringing and his social media feed is busy with people worried the coal tip that looms above the village of Tylorstown in south Wales might be in danger of slipping.

“They’re asking me: ‘Rob, is it going to happen again?’ The anxiety, the anguish is terrible,” said Bevan. “While the tip is there, even if you’ve got the best engineers working on it, you can never be sure it’s 100% safe. The tips are an albatross around our necks.”

The Welsh government is on Tuesday spelling out its requests of the UK government in this autumn’s spending review. Top of the list is a call for Boris Johnson’s administration to share responsibility for the tips and allocate long-term funding to make them safe.

It says that an estimated 40% of all UK coal tips are in Wales and about one in seven of these are classed as high risk. The Labour-controlled Welsh government argues that extreme weather caused by the climate crisis is making many of the tips unstable and believes at least £500m to £600m will be needed over the next 10 to 15 years to make them safe.

A tip above Tylorstown in Rhondda Cynon Taf partly collapsed during the storms of February last year, sending 60,000 tonnes of waste tumbling into the river close to the village’s leisure centre. It blocked part of the river valley, broke a foul sewer and wrecked a footpath and cycle path. Luckily, nobody was hurt.

After lobbying by the Welsh government, the local council and “ranting” – his word – from the Rhondda MP Chris Bryant, the UK government agreed to contribute £2.5m to a clear-up, a fraction of the estimated £18m the remediation project is costing.

“That feels measly,” said Bevan, a former mine electrician. He argued that the coal that was taken out of the valleys fuelled the whole of the UK. “The legacy of mining is still here. We’re living with it every day,” he said

Bevan said the memory of the 1966 Aberfan disaster, in which 144 people, 116 of them children, died when a junior school was engulfed in a black avalanche of slurry, coal waste and tailings from a tip, springs to mind whenever the subject is brought up. “It’s at the back of your mind when the rains come.”

This week – 20 months after the slip – workers continue to shore it up. Teams, some of them using ropes, clambered over the steep tip. Diggers and dumper trucks beavered away.

Dorothy Lewis, 80, who has run the Tylorstown village shop for half a century, said for as long as she could remember, people had debated what to do about the tips. “They used to talk about taking them down and using the material to build roads,” she said. “The problem is that it costs so much money.”

Philip Hathway, 72, a retired design engineer, paused to gaze up at the tip as he turned up for a gym session at the leisure centre. “I was a teenager when Aberfan happened. There’s still an anxiety from that all these years later.” He believes the UK government should dip into its pockets. “The whole of the UK benefited from coal,” he said.

After the Tylorstown landslip, the Welsh and UK governments set up the coal tip safety taskforce. It identified 2,144 coal tips in Wales, predominately in the south Wales valleys.

Coal tip safety in Wales is a devolved issue but the government argues the tips are a legacy of the country’s industrial history, which predates devolution.

The Welsh finance and local government minister, Rebecca Evans, is calling on the chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak to “share responsibility” and allocate funding to deal with the “pre-devolution legacy” of mining in Wales.

She said: “Climate impacts are increasing the risks disused coal tips pose to our communities. The UK government has a legal and moral responsibility to work with the Welsh government to address this issue.”

Kira Philpott’s house has a view across to the Tylorstown tip site. “It’s a bit of a mess, isn’t it?” she said, looking across the black scar in the green hill.

She lives nearby, beneath another tip. “Every time it rains hard you look up there and wonder,” she said. “If that came down we’d all really be in trouble here. We wouldn’t have a chance.”

A UK government spokesperson said: “In December 2020, to help with the unforeseen impact of Storm Dennis, we provided £31m of additional funding to the Welsh government, of which £9m was to repair vulnerable coal tips.

“Ultimately, however, the management of coal tips in Wales is a devolved matter and therefore not one the UK government would expect to provide additional funding for.”

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Supreme Court Dismisses Suit Challenging Adeleke’s Candidacy

The Supreme Court has affirmed Ademola Adeleke as the authentic candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the just concluded Osun State Governorship Election.

This has laid to rest the suit filed by Dotun Babayemi, a governorship aspirant of the party who sought the invalidation of Adeleke’s victory.

In a judgement delivered by Justice Amina Augie, the five-member panel held that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the suit after counsel for the appellant, Adebayo Adelodun, withdrew the earlier notice of appeal that was filed within time.

At the resumed hearing, Adelodun, who represented the appellant and Babayemi informed the court that he sought to withdraw the earlier notice of appeal to replace it with the fresh application he filed.

But the panel held that Section 285(11) of the constitution stipulated that an appeal on a pre-election matter must be filed within 14 days from the day of the decision, and that having filed the second appeal out of time, the apex court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter.

Justice Augie, therefore, dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

Babayemi had asked the court to invalidate the primary election that produced the governor-elect, citing non-compliance with a court order.

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400 Staff To Lose Jobs As BBC Goes Digital

The British Broadcasting Corporation BBC world service has on Thursday disclosed that about 400 of its staff will lose their jobs as part of a cost-cutting programme and move to digital platforms,

The BBC said its international services needed to make savings of £28.5 million ($31 million) as part of wider reductions of £500 million.

In July it detailed plans to merge BBC World News television and its domestic UK equivalent into a single channel to launch in April next year.

BBC World Service currently operates in 40 languages around the world with a weekly audience of some 364 million people.

But the corporation said audience habits were changing and more people were accessing news online, which along with a freeze on BBC funding and increased operating costs meant a move to “digital-first” made financial sense.

BBC World Service director Liliane Landor said there was a “compelling case” for expanding digital services, as audiences had more than doubled since 2018.

“The way audiences are accessing news and content is changing and the challenge of reaching and engaging people around the world with quality, trusted journalism is growing,” she added.

 

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Environment

Hurricane Ian: Cities flooded and power cut as storm crosses Florida

Hurricane Ian: Cities flooded and power cut as storm crosses Florida

Hurricane Ian made landfall at around 15:10 local time (19:10 GMT) on Wednesday, smashing into the coast with wind speeds of up to 241km/h (150mph).

Dramatic scenes saw a hospital roof blown off, cars submerged and trees ripped out of the ground.

The category four hurricane was later downgraded to a tropical storm.

However, Floridians were warned that the most dangerous 24 hours lay ahead and the mayor of Tampa urged people to shelter in place through the night into Thursday morning.

“We are going to get the majority of the rain and the higher winds starting about 20:00, and they are going to last throughout the night,” Jane Castor said during a Wednesday evening briefing.

In a message posted on Facebook, the Weather Prediction Center told residents in the Central Florida Peninsula to expect “widespread life-threatening, catastrophic flash and urban flooding” continuing into Friday morning, with potentially up to 76cm (30ins) of rain falling locally.

Residents were ordered to leave their homes, but many have decided to remain and seek shelter indoors.

Mark Pritchett, who lives in the city of Venice, some 95km (60 miles) south of Tampa, described the “terrifying” moment he stepped outside his home as the hurricane made its way across the Gulf of Mexico.

“Rain shooting like needles. My street is a river,” he said in a text message to the Associated Press news agency.

In Lee County – the south-west region where Ian made landfall – police were prevented from responding to reports of looting at a petrol station because of the storm damage.

As a result, a curfew has been declared “until further notice”.

Lee County Manager Roger Desjarlais said that the Fort Myers community had “been – to some extent – decimated”. According to news agency AFP, some neighbourhoods in the city of 80,000 had been left resembling lakes.

State Governor Ron DeSantis described Ian as the “biggest flood event” south-west Florida had ever seen, and announced that 7,000 National Guard troops are ready to lead rescue operations in flood zones.

President Joe Biden will receive a briefing on Thursday from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Ian is now continuing to move north through Florida. Jacksonville International Airport, based in north-east Florida, cancelled all flights scheduled for Thursday.

The storm is forecast to emerge into the Atlantic by Thursday morning.

It is expected to reach Georgia and South Carolina on Friday. Virginia has also joined Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida by declaring a state of emergency.

Cuba’s western coast was hit by Hurricane Ian on Tuesday. Power has now been restored in some areas after the island was plunged into a total blackout. Two people are understood to have been killed in Cuba and more than 20 Cuban migrants are believed to be missing at sea.

Predicted path of Hurricane Ian. Updated 27 September

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