Ottawa’s Lebanese community watches Beirut explosion in horror from afar

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Stephanie Maghnam first heard about the explosion in the Lebanese capital after her cousin sent her a video of the explosion, which sent a tower of white smoke and a fireball into the air.“It was just awful,” she said. “I have never seen a cloud of smoke – a mushroom. he [was] almost like I’m watching the atomic bomb exploding. “

The massive explosion near the Beirut port area killed at least 100 people and injured thousands more on Tuesday. The shock wave from the explosion shattered the windows and caused the apartment balconies to collapse.

The Lebanese interior minister said initial reports showed that highly explosive materials, which had been seized years earlier and stored in the area, had exploded.

Family members in Ottawa say they feel helpless as Lebanon’s pandemic and growing economic crisis make it difficult to send aid to loved ones across the country.

WATCH: Explosions at the port of the Lebanese capital on Tuesday afternoon

Witnesses described the scene as “total chaos”. 1:13

Maghnam’s cousin lives in the town of Bchamoun on a mountain overlooking the port of Beirut. Even though the city is 10 kilometers away, their apartment was still badly damaged by the explosion, she said.

“Most of the residential buildings in Lebanon are made with a lot of glass,” Maghnam said.

The family, including two young children, are staying with relatives further up the mountains as they try to determine their next steps.

‘I haven’t seen anything like it’

Mohamad Rachidi, a recent graduate of the University of Ottawa, grew up in Lebanon during the 2006 war. He said he had seen difficult things but had never seen “anything of the sort.” Phone”.

“The videos I get from my friends and family in Beirut are devastating, honestly,” he said.

People evacuate the injured after a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, August 4, 2020 (AP Photo / Hassan Ammar)

When he heard the news of the explosion, Rachidi immediately retired from work to call relatives in the city.

“Thank goodness everything was fine,” he said.

Some of his extended family suffered property damage, but he said “it doesn’t matter for the health of my family and friends.”

‘Part of me exploded’

Comedian Nathalie Baroud was born in Lebanon but grew up in Ottawa and now lives in Montreal. She said watching videos of the explosion caused her to have a physical reaction.

“I screamed like someone hit me in the stomach,” she said. “I felt like a part of me exploded. ”

She heard from her family and friends in Beirut and learned that they are all fine, she said. But Baroud worries, as the death toll and injury toll continues to rise, there may not be enough help on the ground.

Maghnam said his father would have been one of those helpers if he hadn’t moved to Canada. He was a firefighter during the war in Lebanon and worked in the city’s port area.

She said he was devastated watching the fallout from the blast from afar.

“He feels very helpless, as many Lebanese-Canadians do, not being able to help their loved ones at this time. ”

Ottawa’s cousin, Stephanie Maghnam, witnessed the explosion that devastated downtown Beirut yesterday. Stéphanie tells us what it was like to see the videos taken by her cousin, knowing that she was so close to the explosion. 9:31

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