GTA Lebanese community calls on federal government to help rebuild after explosion

A member of the Lebanese community in the Greater Toronto Area is calling on the Canadian government to help rebuild the Beirut port, which was devastated in a massive explosion Tuesday.

Tuesday's blast in Beirut killed at least 135 people, left more than 5,000 wounded

Mississauga resident Joe Hamadi, says his relatives in Beirut are all okay. Hamadi is calling on the federal government to help rebuild the port in Beirut. (CBC)

A member of the Lebanese community in the Greater Toronto Area is calling on the Canadian government to help rebuild the Beirut port, which was devastated in a massive explosion Tuesday.

At least 135 people were killed in the blast, which also left more than 5,000 others wounded.

Mississauga resident Joe Hamadi said the Lebanese community in Canada will be helping the homeland rebuild, but given the scale of the disaster, a lot more help will be needed.

"We will be helping, obviously. All the Canadians of Lebanese descent will be helping out and we'll be doing our share," Hamadi told CBC  News.

"The Canadian government always helps in humanitarian disasters, and I would ask our prime minister and the Canadian government to just help Beirut rebuild, especially the port.

"The hospitals are in dire need of medical help now, so I would ask the Canadian government to send some emergency help," Hamadi added.

A view of the damage at the site of Tuesday's blast in Beirut's port area. It appears ammonium nitrate had been stored in a warehouse at the dock for six years. (Aziz Taher/Reuters)

Federal government announces $5M contribution

On Wednesday evening, Minister of international Development Karina Gould announced an initial humanitarian contribution of $5 million. 

Gould said the funds will be sent immediately to trusted partners on the ground to help meet the urgent needs of people affected by the tragic explosion.

Hamadi said there are large groups of people of Lebanese descent in Toronto and Mississauga, and while no formal fundraising event has been launched so far, people have begun raising money for the Red Cross.

"I'm sure the Lebanese community in Toronto and Mississauga will help a lot. It is urgent; the people need help," he said.

"It's a disaster. There's no electricity. The power at the hospital is out [and] they're relying on generators, so it's a crazy situation. Total disaster."

A view of damaged buildings following Tuesday's blast in Beirut's port area. (Mohamed Azazir/Reuters)

Coronavirus kept family away from Beirut this year

Hamadi has family in Beirut, and says fortunately, they are all okay.

He and his family are usually in Beirut at this time of year, and actually own a condo about 500 metres from the port. They suspect it's been destroyed.

"At this time of the year, we usually spend a month there [but] because of the coronavirus we stayed behind this year, which is fortunate, I guess, for us," Hamadi said.

"The condo probably is in a bad shape now but this is nothing compared to the people that lost their lives and lost their livelihoods, so it's very sad, a very sad situation.

"I have family in a town that is 100 kilometres from the site of the explosion and they heard the explosion [but] they're all fine," he added.

More than 300,000 people homeless

Rami Shamma, field operations director for the Canada chapter of the NGO World Vision, spoke with CBC News on Wednesday from Lebanon.

He said the World Vision team is now rapidly assessing the situation to determine the immediate needs and how they can support families

"We are looking at more than 300,000 people who are homeless," Shamma told CBC News.

"The economic crisis as it was before, along with the COVID-19 crisis, and the refugee crisis that has been present since 2012, have all been topped up by this explosion that happened yesterday and the basic need is one of intervention, that we are looking at as well."

Shamma said World Vision is a child-focused organization, so it will concentrate primarily on helping children.

Rami Shamma, field operations director for the Canada chapter of the NGO World Vision, says 'food is one of the basic basic priorities that we are looking at for a healthy life for the child.' (Submitted by Rami Shamma)

Following a cabinet meeting Wednesday, the Lebanese government declared a two-week state of emergency, effectively giving the military full power during this time.

Scores of people remain missing, with relatives pleading on social media for help in locating loved ones.

"People still don't know much about other family members," Hamadi said.

"There are a lot of people in the hospitals; the hospitals are overwhelmed, a lot of injuries. We're still counting. It's still a fresh event and we're counting the injured," he added.

"I'm very sad, very upset, emotionally drained. but we have to deal with a disaster and it doesn't help to just watch it, we have to do something to help and we're willing to do it. The Lebanese are very strong people and they will pull out of it and rebuild for sure."

A man removes broken glass scattered on the carpet of a mosque damaged in Tuesday's blast. (Aziz Taher/Reuters)

In a tweet on Wednesday, officials at the CN Tower advised that it will be lit red, white and green — the colours of the Lebanese flag — Wednesday night in honour of the victims.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families," the tweet reads.

With files from Kelda Yuen and Natalie Kalata