The tragedy of Alcafache.” That’s how O Primeiro de Janeiro described that late afternoon of the 11th of September, 1985, in Beira Alta.
Sud-Express, taking hundreds of emigrants back home, left the Oporto station with a 17-minute delay. The regional service to Coimbra that is travelling in the only railroad is supposed to let the international train go first.
Due to the Sud-Express’ delay, the place where the trains crossed paths was altered. The international one was travelling from Nelas to Alfache. But the regional one had already left the station.
The flames started in the first three carriages of the international train and the two first ones of the regional train.
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A RTP cameraman was one of the first to arrive to the scene, finding a scenario of horror.
The quickest way to get footage to RTP was by airplane, but Viseu’s aerodrome didn’t have enough lights.
The President of the Republic announced that the Portuguese people had the right to information, and a special flight plan was created.
Journalist Rui Romano informed the country of the tragedy. The rescue missions were followed closely by RTP.
President of the Republic Ramalho Anes and Prime Minister Mário Soares rushed to the crash site.
“There are no comments to be made,” said Eanes to the journalists.
New pieces of information were released as time went by.
Questioned on whether he had an assessment of the situation, Mário Soares said: “Yes and fortunately it’s not as catastrophist as the radio said.”