Beirut explosion: Toronto-area community leaders react to devastating blast

Click to play video: 'Toronto’s Lebanese-Canadian community reaches out to help after explosion in Beirut'
Toronto’s Lebanese-Canadian community reaches out to help after explosion in Beirut
WATCH ABOVE: After the initial shock, there is a realization that Lebanon is going to need the world's help in the coming weeks and months. Toronto's Lebanese-Canadian community is already reaching out to provide that assistance. Tom Hayes speaks with community members and business owners in Scarborough – Aug 5, 2020

Community leaders in the Greater Toronto Area are in shock after a massive explosion in Beirut on Tuesday, and are asking for support for those who are in Lebanon.

“It’s sad. To everyone listening, please pray for Lebanon and the Lebanese people,” Mohamed Fakih, owner of Paramount Fine Foods, told Global News hours after the explosion.

“People are scared for their lives … being here and not being able to help, it makes one feel useless.”

Fakih, who immigrated to Canada from Lebanon and whose entire extended family still lives in the country, said his parents live five or six kilometres from the blast site.

“My dad fell off the chair because of the strength of the explosion. My mom thought it was an earthquake,” he said.

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Rola Dagher, president of Cisco Canada, said she has lived in Canada for 31 years and half of her family is still in the country. She said after receiving a message about the explosion, she tried to make sure her family was OK.

“It was really, really sad to see. It was surreal. And also, it was five hours of waiting to hear if my nephew was alive or not,” Dagher said, noting she was able to confirm her family was OK.

“People are just trying to stay safe and stay inside because they don’t know what’s the cause, they don’t know what’s happening.”

She appealed to the millions of Lebanese people living across the world to help the country as it recovers, especially amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s time for us to stand up and save Lebanon,” Dagher said.

“It was absolutely devastating today … please, please, please reach out to people and support them.”

Mayor John Tory shared a message of support on Twitter Tuesday evening and said the Toronto sign would be dimmed as a sign of support. In Mississauga, Mayor Bonnie Crombie announced city hall was going to be lit red and white.

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The explosion rocked the capital of Lebanon on Tuesday, flattening much of the city’s port, damaging buildings across the capital and sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. More than 70 people were killed and 3,000 injured, with bodies buried in the rubble, officials said.

The blast struck with the force of a 3.5-magnitude earthquake, according to Germany’s geosciences centre GFZ, and it was heard and felt as far away as Cyprus more than 200 kilometres across the Mediterranean.

What caused the detonation was not immediately clear. Videos showed what appeared to be a fire erupting nearby just before the blast. Local TV stations reported that a fireworks warehouse was involved. The fire appeared to spread to a nearby building, triggering the more massive explosion, generating a shock wave.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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