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Lebanese-Canadians in Halifax grief-stricken, shocked by explosion in Beirut

A damaged vehicle is seen at the site of an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon August 4, 2020.
A damaged vehicle is seen at the site of an explosion in Beirut, Lebanon August 4, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

Lebanese-Canadians in Halifax are still in shock as they absorb the news of the massive explosion that rocked the port of Beirut on Tuesday.

Many still have strong ties to Lebanon and were scrambling to make sure their loved ones were safe.

Read more: Beirut explosion: Scientists explain what may have caused the blasts

Video of the massive explosion that rocked Lebanon’s capital city Beirut shocked and stunned Wadih Fares, the honourary consul of Lebanon in Halifax, as the businessman initially thought it was an attack.

“The first call I got from Lebanon, they thought it was a nuclear bomb. That shows you how massive it was,” said Fares.

In 1976, Fares escaped Lebanon during the civil war and came to Halifax to study at Dalhousie University but still has family living in Beirut. They are fine but shaken by the massive explosion, which killed more than 100 and left thousands injured.

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The images of the crumbled buildings and the destruction left behind remind Fares of the civil war and all the country has been through.

“Lebanon has had its share of misery and struggle but Lebanon has always come back,” said Fares.

Lebanese descendent and Halifax Armdale MLA Lena Diab called her cousin immediately who lives in Beirut and said he heard the first explosion and the second shattered windows in his home.

 

“Right now they are not only facing a tragedy with all the debris and rubble and devastation but also possibly facing hunger issues,” said Diab.

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The explosion in Beirut comes as Lebanon is experiencing a major economic collapse and political unrest.

It creates an extra level of concern for the strong Lebanese community here in the Maritimes, says Georgette Faddoul, the president of the Canadian Lebanon Society of Halifax, as many others like her, have been scrambling to connect with family and friends in Beirut.

“Everybody is still devastated today and in shock,” said Faddoul.

“We’re all just trying to put things together and trying to communicate with our local people and our consulate, and our different churches and different organizations and see what we are going to do here as a community.”

Read more: Beirut explosion: More than 100 killed, thousands injured in blast in Lebanon’s capit

Fares says he’s been humbled by the support already by those reaching out to show their support and believes Nova Scotians will step up to support the cleanup and rebuilding of Beirut.

“My call is to Canada and to all the government leaders to do whatever they can,” said Fares.

Fares says they are coordinating with the Embassy of Lebanon in Ottawa to set up a helpline to allow Canadians to send financial support to the devastated country.

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