Montreal’s Lebanese community is in mourning following deadly explosions in Beirut, Lebanon, on Tuesday.
The blast, which originated in the city’s port, killed more than 100 people and injured thousands.
While the source of the explosion isn’t clear yet, the country’s interior minister told a local television station on Tuesday that the suspected cause was the detonation of roughly 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in a confiscation warehouse at the dock since 2014.
Among the victims was Montreal businessman Nazar Najarian.
A spokesperson for the Canadian military also said one member sustained non-life-threatening injuries in the explosions but that all others in the region are safe and accounted for.
Najarian, according to Montreal city councillor and friend Aref Salem, left Canada to pursue a life of politics and served as the secretary-general of Lebanon’s Kataeb party.
“He left Montreal trying to make Lebanon better,” Salem said. “His goal in life is trying to make change. It’s really sad that he left this world before seeing the change that might happen in Lebanon.”
Salem, though, believes Najarian’s death wasn’t in vain.
“He was in his office when the explosion happened and he ended up giving his life to this country,” he said. “He gave his life to his values and we have to respect that.”
In an interview with Global News on Wednesday, Salem extended his condolences to Najarian’s family, which is still based in Montreal.
“His wife, she left two weeks ago to visit him and the kids are leaving today, obviously, for the funeral,” he said. “So, my sympathy to the family, too.”
At the Lebanon Consulate in Montreal, the Lebanese flag could be seen flying at half-mast on Wednesday.
Antoine Eid, the consul general of Lebanon to Montreal, said the community is in shock but trying to come together to help.
Eid spoke of the extensive damage in the capital and the need for medical help.
“We have counted more than 100 deaths and more than three to four thousand injured — and they’re still coming, the deaths, and partially half the city was destroyed,” he said.
“The most important need now is medical help because more than four or five major hospitals were destroyed and damaged so we need medical help and we need medication, all kind of supplies to come to heal the injuries and to help the people.”
Eid said the community is trying to work out how best to help those affected and spoke of an existing program between the Lebanese Red Cross and Canadian Red Cross.
“People can donate money and this money will go immediately to the Lebanese Red Cross, which is most needed nowadays,” he said.
Eid acknowledged the situation in Lebanon was already dire before the explosion and that help is needed now more than ever.
“We have already a financial crisis, inflation of our money, we have the COVID situation,” he said. “The situation is really bad and we need the help of the humanitarian aid of the Lebanese community all over the world and from the international community, too.”
A candlelight vigil is being planned on Thursday to honour the lives of the victims and show support to the survivors of the tragedy.
“We are trying to organize a night to honour our dead and our (injured) and to show the world and send a message of unity and solidarity to Lebanon,” Eid said.
“We have to stand all together to overcome this catastrophic day and this catastrophic situation.”
The ceremony will be held outside the Consulate, located at 40 Ch. de la Côte-Ste-Catherine in Montreal’s Outremont borough, starting at 7 p.m. and ending at 9 p.m.
A separate vigil is scheduled to take place at Dorchester Square Wednesday evening in downtown Montreal.
Meanwhile, at the parliament building in Quebec City, the Quebec flag was also lowered to half-mast on Wednesday, in a show of support to the Lebanese community.
“Our a sincerest condolences to the families and loved one of the victims,” reads a Tweet by national assembly president François Paradis. “Our thoughts are with the Lebanese people and Quebec’s Lebanese community.”
— With files from Global’s Amanda Connolly.