'Very painful': Edmonton's Lebanese community stunned by Beirut explosions
EDMONTON -- Members of Edmonton's Lebanese community say they are heartbroken after the deadly explosions in Beirut on Tuesday.
At least 135 people are dead, including one Canadian. Another 5,000 are injured and rescue crews continue to search for survivors.
"It is very difficult, it's very painful," Joe Hak told CTV News Edmonton. "Anywhere you see devastation like this, your heart is in pain."
He says the ties to Lebanon are strong in Edmonton and the community is working to raise funds for whatever is needed.
"Lebanon has been going through agony after agony for the past decade at least. And this one was sort of the real dagger that hit the heart of every Lebanese all over the world," Hak said.
Other members of the city's Lebanese community are similarly shaken and looking for ways to help.
Jessica Halabi says she plans to donate part of the proceeds from her clothing business to the country's Red Cross.
"Everybody's asking how can i help? It's really hard being here. We all feel really helpless."
"The whole community is in shock," said Lebanese Honorary Consul Hussein Rahal.
"Whatever we could do to help ... I want to help ... all of us we need to help."
Smoke was still rising from the port Wednesday morning, where several buildings were destroyed. The second explosion was so powerful it was felt hundreds of kilometres away in Cyprus.
Lebanon's government held an emergency cabinet meeting Wednesday and declared a two-week state of emergency. Buildings around the city were damaged, and according to Beirut's governor, hundreds of thousands might not be able to return to their homes for two or three months.
The explosions also destroyed silos full of grain and other food at the port. The country was already struggling with food shortages and its economy.
The president says more than 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive chemical used in fertilizers, had been seized and stored in a warehouse at the port for six years. The country's prime minister is promising to punish those responsible for the tragedy..
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney issued a statement on Tuesday.
“To the many Albertans who have family living in Lebanon, we join you in hope that your loved ones are safe. We offer you our thoughts, our prayers and our love," it read.
International aid flights began arriving in Lebanon on Wednesday, and the government said imports and exports will be secured through other ports in the country as the investigation continues.