July 31, 1982 – In 1982 it was a Saturday. And in France, the last Saturday of the month was known as Black Saturday; the beginning of August vacation for most of France, who took the time off for the holiday to head to the beach, the country – anywhere that wasn’t the city. But on this particular Black Saturday it was devastating. Probably the worst highway accident took place just outside of Paris where a bus, loaded with children heading to summer camp, slammed on its brakes and created a chain-reaction that left some 54 dead in one of the worst highway accidents in French history.
In West Beirut, PLO Chairman Yassar Arafat ordered his forces to strengthen and consolidate their positions around the city. This coming on reports that Israeli troops were surrounding Beirut and that a showdown was inevitable. Those orders came following an emergency meeting of the PLO leadership. Lebanese officials said the previous days Israeli bombardment killed some 38 Lebanese and Palestinian civilians and wounded 56 others.
In the other Middle East War; the one between Iran and Iraq, Iraqi forces claimed a major victory over Iranian forces in what was termed a “massive attack of the Iraq oil port city of Basra”; the latest battle in the 23-month old Gulf War began the previous Wednesday night and continued until late Friday when Iraq announced that its army was victorious. Iraq claimed to have killed more than 6,000 Iranian soldiers, knocked out hundreds of tanks, armored personnel carriers, other vehicles and artillery guns. It was the fifth assault on Iranian forces since Iran began its fifth assault two and a half weeks earlier.
And the Panamanian National Guard ordered the shut down of newspapers for a week, following the surprise resignation of Aristide Arroyo for “unspecified health reasons”. The vice-President was sworn in as the new President. The National Guard, under General Ruben Dario Paredes became the real government running the country.
And that’s just a small slice of what went on this last day of July in 1982 as presented by ABC’s World News This Morning.