Alberta Muslim group collects donations for victims of Beirut explosion
At least 150 people were killed and hundreds of thousands displaced from their homes
Mohamad Awada said he cries every time he watches the news about the explosion in Lebanon — his home country.
"I felt like the explosion fled overseas and reached me," he said. "It's emotional in every aspect."
Awada volunteers with the Alberta Muslim Social Association in Calgary, which is collecting donations to support the victims of last week's devastating explosion.
The explosion happened when 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive chemical used in fertilizer, ignited. At least 150 people were killed, thousands injured and 300,000 displaced from their homes. An investigation into the disaster will focus on possible negligence around the explosive material's storage.
The blast also destroyed medical supplies and food at the capital city's port, at a time when Lebanon was already in the throes of a financial crisis.
"I can't imagine how bad it is right now," said Mahmoud Mourra, the association's chairman. "When I talk to my friend and my brother back home … they tell me no matter how bad you can imagine, it is worse."
Mourra also grew up in Lebanon and has family in the area.
"God bless us that that explosion took place after 6 o'clock, and the port closes at 3:30 p.m. If this thing had blown up at 3 o'clock, the number could have been way worse," he said.
"I'm so proud to be Canadian … but it's also very hard to see your mom in pain, and that's how I feel about Lebanon," Awada said. "To the Calgary community, please be generous, please try to help as much as you can … good things always bring good things. What you do for good will come back to you as good."
The association is accepting monetary donations, which will be sent directly to the Lebanese Red Cross or other non-governmental organizations, as well as non-perishable food and other essential items that will be shipped overseas by Aug. 20.
Canada has announced it will send up to $5 million in humanitarian aid to Lebanon.
More than 10,300 Albertans were born in Lebanon, according to Statistics Canada's 2016 census. Of those, more than 4,000 live in Calgary.
Items can be dropped of between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. at 521 35th Avenue N.E., or donors can request pickup by contacting the association.
With files from Hala Ghonaim