Maritime Lebanese community reaching out to loved ones after Beirut explosion
SAINT JOHN, N.B. -- The people of Beirut, Lebanon face an uncertain future in the aftermath of Tuesday’s massive explosion, which killed at least 135 people and displaced hundreds of thousands.
Members of the Lebanese communities in the Maritimes are still in shock, but are now doing their best to help.
“At the beginning, you’re in a state of shock and denial,” says Jihad El Zamer, a Fredericton resident, on his reaction to the explosion. “It could be fake. It could be made up.”
Forty-eight hours after the deadly explosion, reality is hitting home for El Zamer. He is the only member of his family in Canada, and was able to reach them in Lebanon, but the news is mixed.
“Everybody is physically OK, but emotionally challenged and devastated to say the least,” says El Zamer.
St. Charbel’s church is the spiritual home of the Lebanese community in Fredericton, where congregation members were desperate to reach friends and family in the old country.
“The first thing I did was call my cousin to make sure that they’re OK, because they live in Ashafeya, which is close to the port where the explosion happened,” says Fredericton resident Dominique Soffee.
The explosion destroyed thousands of homes and, based on the damage, those numbers are expected to rise.
“I think it’s already really bad, and maybe the numbers again will increase. You know, the injuries and all that. From the videos that I see, I don’t even believe the numbers,” says Alex Haram, a Saint John resident.
Haram owns a pair of Lebanese restaurants in Saint John, and reopened Thursday after a couple days off. His family in the Beirut area is also OK, but Haram says there is a feeling of helplessness.
“I feel a lot for my wife. When I see her talking on the phone, crying everyday,” says Haram. “But there’s nothing much you can do, all we can do is pray for them and try to get them here safe.”
The option of leaving Lebanon is increasingly considered the only option for some.
“It’s better to try to find a better future for your family, and your kids. I’m hoping we can get some support from the federal government, not just from Canada, but from everywhere,” says George Youssef, a Fredericton resident.
There are several international relief efforts underway, including with the Canadian Red Cross, but family members in the Maritimes are wondering just what kind of living conditions their families over in Lebanon will have endure in the months, and perhaps years to come.
Special services are being planned at St. Charbel’s church to pray for the victims, the survivors, and for the future of Lebanon.