As international aid begins to stream into Beirut following the deadly blast there Tuesday, a former Montreal man living in the Lebanese capital is one of many left devastated by the explosion.
Mourad Aoun, a former resident of Montreal’s Plateau Mont Royal neighbourhood, said he moved back to Lebanon in 2006, just before the start of the war, to build his Net Logistics company.
On Tuesday, business came to a standstill.
He said the explosions happened mere minutes after he left his office in the Karantina area, about a kilometre from the port. According to Aoun, the blast heavily damaged his building and injured three employees, who were taken to hospital.
“It was devastating,” he said. “Everything is on the ground!”
Aoun said the company warehouse at the Port of Beirut Free Zone, the area where the explosion occurred, was completely destroyed.
“It’s like a nuclear bomb that erased everything,” he noted, “so we need to rebuild everything.”
But the businessman said it was only Thursday that the scale of the devastation became apparent to him when he went for a bike ride around the city for stress relief.
“I wish I didn’t do that,” he told Global News via Skype from Beirut, “because it’s like the city is almost completely destroyed. You can’t find one window in a radius of five kilometres around here.”
Today, like others in Beirut, he’s trying to come to terms with what happened.
Back in the Montreal area, Liberal MP for Laval-Les Îles, Fayçal El-Khoury, who was born in Lebanon, is also shocked by the devastation.
“Beirut is asking for love and help,” he said, fighting back tears.
Now he’s trying to muster any help he can get, saying medical aid and non-perishable items are the top priority.
“The most needed also is to repair the damage done to the houses, to the buildings,” he said, “and let those who are homeless now get back to their residences as soon as possible.”
The Canadian government says the priority now is to save lives. On Wednesday, officials pledged 5$ million in emergency aid to the country.
“$1.5 million of this will be disbursed immediately through the Canadian Red Cross to the Lebanese Red Cross and other partners who are acting on the ground,” said Karina Gould, Canada’s minister of International Development.
Aoun appreciates the help but stresses long-term assistance is also needed if the country is to stand on its own. He vows to stay and rebuild.
“The objective is to turn Lebanon into a real civilized country, the way we used to live in Montreal,” he said. “I want to take what I learned in Montreal and bring it to Lebanon. Be positive. You can build things again even if you lost everything.”