ABERFAN, Wales -- An avalanche of rain-loosened coal slag cascaded down a Welsh mountainside today, burying a school, shops and homes in this mining village.
It was feared as many as 200 persons, most of them children, were killed by the oozing slime and rock.
"A generation of children has been wiped out in this village," said George Thomas, the British government's minister of state for Wales.
There were 254 youngsters aged 5 to 11 in the school when the avalanche struck with terrifying suddenness this morning. A total of 163 children are missing and unaccounted for.
Authorities reported 33 bodies had been recovered, including six adults.
The mountain of waste, built up over a century of mining activity, contained an estimated 2 million tons of slag. It slithered noiselessly into the village until it hit the buildings with a roar and threatened still more destruction hours later.
An army of 1 ,000 sooty, shirtless miners desperate mothers digging at their sides clawed through the debris trying to reach the youngsters trapped inside the Pantglas elementary school.
The coal pit waste, 50 to 60 feet in height, smashed into the school as teachers were calling the roll. The glacier of slag also flattened 16 other buildings but spared a nearby senior high school where 200 students were attending classes. It was among the worst disasters in Welsh mining history.
Aberfan, a typical Welsh mining town of 5,000 persons, is nestled in a valley of the Rhondda River in Southern Wales about 170 miles north-northwest of London.
A state of emergency was declared and Britain's Queen Elizabeth II sent a message expressing her "heartfelt sympathy."
Prime Minister Harold Wilson announced plans to fly to the scene and Cledwyn Hughes, the government's secretary of state for Wales, flew in by helicopter.
The slag heap is still creeping, John F. Bradley, a town engineer, reported. "It is still moving," he said. "We don't know where it is going to end."