'Pray for Lebanon': B.C.'s Lebanese community pleads for medical supplies
VANCOUVER -- As the death toll from a massive explosion in the Lebanese capital keeps growing, Canada’s diaspora community is pleading for medical supplies and support from governments, charities and anyone able to donate.
The honourary consul for Lebanon in Port Moody says there are 6,500 residents of B.C. with a Lebanese background, almost all of whom are now desperately trying to connect with family and loved ones who were in Beirut when one explosion led to a massive and devastating explosion that tore across the city.
"I got the bad news that one of my best friends, long-term friends, died during the explosion," said Nick Kahwaji. "I tried using WhatsApp right away to contact some cousins in Lebanon. I have a cousin who works not far from there and another cousin who work also in that area. Hopefully they are OK and they are safe.”
Vancouver resident Nano Hawa told CTV News his family members in Beirut described the second, larger explosion that ripped apart the city’s port and shattered windows kilometres away as being louder than missile shelling during the war.
"I'm so thankful that my family is safe, but my heart goes out to all of the citizens of Lebanon dealing with this tragedy," he said.
A businessman with family in Montreal is already counted among more than 70 dead. Across the country, Canadians are using phone lines, social media and instant messaging to connect with loved ones. Thousands are injured with untold numbers of people trapped in the rubble.
"My car jumped. I saw people flying… Stores, apartments, houses, everything fell down. People were screaming, running,” Ahmed Yassine, senior producer for Alarby TV, told CTV News Channel. "We faced wars… we survived many explosions. But this one is totally new. It's another kind of explosion."
B.C's Kahwaji has already put out a call to the Lebanese diaspora to help as much as possible through Lebanon’s Red Cross. The dentist hopes provincial and federal health officials will join non-governmental organizations to support Beirut’s hospitals, which had already been struggling during the pandemic.
"The hospitals are asking for help. They don't even have material to do sutures, to disinfect. They don't have enough gauze and peroxide — even the basic needs in hospitals is missing now,” said Kahwaji.
"I'd like (Canadians) to pray for Lebanon. It's not the first time Beirut is destroyed. Beirut will stand up again, will build itself again, but now there's a lot of suffering and Beirut really needs help."