Terror, chaos, destruction, the political conjuncture and the determining role of students in helping the population that was devastated by the floods of November 1967, were some of the topics addressed in a conference promoted by former student leaders, held at Técnico, on November 28.
Rain began falling in the early hours of November 26 and didn’t stop for three days. Trees, animals, stones, cars and houses with entire families inside were dragged away by the flood. All Lisbon district was affected, as well as Odivelas, Oeiras, Cascais, Alenquer and the municipalities of Loures and Vila Franca de Xira. Luísa Tiago de Oliveira, professor and researcher at ISCTE in the field of contemporary history and José Pacheco Pereira, owner of Ephemera library, were part of the first panel. “The floods generated, among many other things, a mixture of humanism and social responsibility. Students played a very reactive role and that was crucial”, said José Pacheco Pereira.
During the afternoon, the panel was composed of three experts: professor Francisco Costa from the Geography Department at University of Minho, professor José Luís Zêzere from the Centre of Geographical Studies at Universidade de Lisboa and Manuel Costa Alves, meteorologist and former student leader.
Engineer Armindo Fernandes, former AEIST leader, recalled the role played by Técnico students with emotion: “17 locations were supported for over 44000 working hours. About 400 students were involved in all this process”, he pointed out.
The same idea was pointed out by Francisco George, who was also involved in the support to the victims. “Although the bad memories, I did not hesitate to confirm my presence here”, he began to explain. He recalled the heavy rain and that “only in the next day I could understand the effects of it all”, he said. “The students support was a very discussed issue. After all, we were at the height of a dictatorship, which made many people hesitate”, he said. “We must assign all responsibilities to politics and poverty”, concluded Francisco George.
The session was attended by Maria Luísa Fajardo, a survivor of the flooding episode. With her voice choked with emotion she said a few words and recalled her “parents’ grieve for the losses and for the missing relatives”. Maria was only 13 years old when this all happened. “My mother was in shock about everything that happened. She lost her parents and a daughter. I had to react and to overcome this situation”, she noted.
A video that showed the damage, pain, chaos, destruction and even death was one of the most moving moments of the whole session.