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Edmonton man raises money for families of first responders killed in Beirut blast

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Edmonton man raises money for families of first responders killed in Beirut blast
WATCH ABOVE: It's been just over a week since a deadly explosion in Beirut killed more than 170 people and its effects continue to radiate into Edmonton’s Lebanese community. One Edmonton man with close ties to those in the country is raising funds for the families of the first responders who died in the blast. Chris Chacon reports – Aug 14, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has confirmed two Canadians were killed in the deadly explosion in Lebanon.

He didn’t say where they were from, but in Edmonton, one man with close ties to the country is hoping to help survivors.

A majority of Adel Elseri’s family still lives in the country, including his close friend who’s a firefighter.

“Mhamad Hamandani is my best friend,” Elseri said. “I’ve been going back home overseas to Lebanon since I’ve been a kid.”

Hearing the news of the disaster, he feared for his childhood friend’s safety.

“When the explosion happened, [it was] emotional. It’s a big shock,” said Mona Atwi, Mhamad Hamandani’s wife.
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Read more: Former Edmontonian living in Lebanon reeling after Beirut explosion

Hamandani had finished his shift and was home with his wife when the blast shattered windows and destroyed buildings.

Not knowing the full extent of what happened, he went out to the front lines and found out 10 of his friends had been killed.

“They trained together… it’s not like friends, it’s like a family. [They were] like brothers… it’s difficult for him,” Atwi said.

Not able to physically be there, Elseri was desperate to help.

“They all have families and the infrastructure isn’t the same out there so we thought we’d do whatever we can to raise some money and get it directly to the families,” Elseri said.

Hoping to raise $10,000 for each of the 10 families of the firefighters killed, Elseri got to work.

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Elseri is a former contestant on the Corus Entertainment TV show Big Brother Canada. (Corus Entertainment is Global News’ parent company)

“I started calling all my fellow Big Brother contestants,” he said. “I started emailing them. I started inboxing them. Everyone was on board and then we started a GoFundMe for the families of the first responders.”

Elseri said he hopes the money will aid with funeral costs and help the families get back on their feet.

A fundraising event was also held this Friday evening at Hawrelak Park. Oranizers said donations will go to the Lebanese Red Cross and the Human Concern International organization.

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