The village of Llangennech has had a plaque presented to mark the anniversary of a freight train derailment.
The derailment last year saw 350,000 litres of fuel spilled, causing a fire that was visible for miles around.
The plaque was officially unveiled with a ceremony at the village train station by those involved in the recovery operation, including Network Rail, Natural Resources Wales, Transport for Wales, Adler and Allan, and British Transport Police who represented all emergency services.
Also represented at the unveiling was Nia Griffith, Labour MP for Llanelli and Councillor Gwyneth Thomas for the Llangennech ward.
Emergency services evacuated around 300 locals from their homes during the night of the incident due to the expanse of the fire, which took nearly 2 days for firefighters to extinguish.
Locals rallied quickly to provide emergency shelter and food for those evacuated.
Luckily nobody was injured throughout the incident, but the derailment happened at a site of international environmental importance which gave huge concern for the neighbouring waterways and wildlife.
A massive environmental recovery operation was undertaken which was led by Natural Resources Wales and, over a period of 6 months, saw 30,000 tonnes of diesel soaked soil removed from under more than 150 meters of railway track. The removal of the soil has prevented lasting environmental impact and has protected the local landscape. The railway was able to reopen in March 2021 with the installation of brand new track and signalling equipment, as it had been damaged in the incident.
The plaque was made by Llanelli stonemason Ben Thomas of The Slate Workshop and for the time being will be kept in safe storage while it awaits its permanent position at Llangennech Station for all to see.
Bill Kelly, Wales & Borders route director at Network Rail said:“It’s important we recognise the part everyone played in responding to the immediate aftermath of the derailment, the massive environmental recovery operation and restoration of the railway.
“We must also remember how frightening this was for the people locally who, despite being uprooted from their homes, rallied around, provided food and shelter – supporting each other through the toughest of times.
“The community showed incredible bravery, support and patience. One year on, we have returned to say a huge thank you to them.”
Natural Resources Wales, who considered this to be the biggest marine incident since the Sea Empress disaster of 1996, continues to regularly monitor the environment, to track progress and ensure the cockles and shellfish harvested from the Bury Inlet remain to be safe.Martyn Evans, Head of South West Operations, Natural Resources Wales, said: “Natural Resources Wales coordinated the Llangennech recovery operation, and thanks to the committed response from our partner organisations, we worked together effectively to prevent an environmental disaster.
“The team consisted of dedicated, highly skilled and determined individuals working together around the clock to meticulously plan and implement a complex recovery operation. Remembering, too, that the incident was managed safely during Covid, with social distancing rules in place and when all incident management & emergency resources were already stretched.
“I sincerely hope that one year on from this incident, life is back to what it was for all the residents, businesses, industries and rail passengers that were affected at the time. The recovery task was helped by the terrific co-operation and understanding of local residents and elected members.”
Llangennech County Councillor Gwyneth Thomas said: “The Community of Llangennech is very thankful to the Emergency Services for their very quick response on the night and for securing the safety of the site. Also to those who worked day and night to ensure the railway line could reopen as soon as possible.
“Thanks also to the local people who gave their assistance. As a Community we are very thankful to all involved.”
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