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Railway disaster in Custóias makes front page news

Accident on the Póvoa line, in July 1964, was widely reported by the JN, with tragic stories but also stories of solidarity

Font: JN

Overcrowded carriage went off the rails and crashed into an overpass, in Custóias, Matosinhos, killing nearly 90 people. Catastrophe happened on a Sunday night.

The accident happened after 10pm on a Sunday. JN editions of the following days showed an impressive capacity of news coverage

At the time, it was the worst rail disaster in Portugal: an overcrowded train derailed and crashed into the base of a viaduct, in Custóias, Matosinhos, claiming the lives of nearly 90 people and injuring more than a hundred. It was Sunday, 26 July 1964. The dimension of the accident was such that JN described it as "Railway Catastrophe", on the front page of the following day, lowering the masthead so that that title was the first thing to be read. An editorial option, as it continues to happen nowadays, when the relevance of the subject justifies it.

But, unlike now - where the essential themes of the edition are called to the front page only through titles, post-titles and images - at that time the JN still published news on the front page of the newspaper. For this reason, and in addition to this, the editions of the 27th and 28th dedicated the whole front page to the tragic event of the Póvoa line, leaving the continuation of the news to other pages.

Those were different times. There were no mobile phones or Internet and, among the media, our newspaper showed an impressive capacity of coverage. The accident happened after 10 pm, between railway stations and in a deserted and poorly lit place. These circumstances added to the natural difficulties for reporters in ascertaining the number of victims and understanding what caused the carriage to become detached from the motorcar.

Even so, in the edition of the 27th there was no lack of details about the accident, lists with complete data of the dead and injured and even interviews, such as the one we did with the reviewer who was following the composition. The JN found him in hospital, "with his head covered in mercurochrome, but speaking with a certain ease and ease, despite feeling chest pains".

As time went by, stories and more stories dressed the whole country in mourning. "A whole family of five people perished in the catastrophe", or "A soldier died without a day's conscription" are expressive titles of the fatality that befell dozens of people.

But, as always, there were also reports of positive events. Take this headline, about a six-year-old boy: "Out of the mix of dead and wounded comes a child without a pinch". On the other hand, we noted the many anonymous people who helped in the rescue operations and the solidarity of ten French people who were in Porto and gave up going to a meeting to give blood to the hospitalised victims.


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