The massive explosion in Lebanon shattered windows and shook the ground in the community 45 minutes away, where Red Deer’s Pascal Abdulghany’s grandparents and many other relatives live.
“They felt an earthquake-like movement,” said Abdulghany, who was able to speak to her family by phone on Tuesday.
After seeing the smoke and feeling the explosion, her family members realized immediately it was not a natural disaster.
“They felt a hot heat. A lot of people were saying there were a lot of toxins in the air making them sick.”
A friend who lives near her grandparents saw all of the glass in his balcony, windows and doors blown out of his apartment.
The blast, which levelled buildings, killed at least 135 people and injured more than 5,000, was believed to have been caused by a warehouse fire in Beirut that ignited more than 2,700 tons of amonium nitrate stored on the docks in the port city.
Abdulghany’s family, who own Sams Donair in downtown Red Deer, were relived to find out that all of their relatives, including aunts, uncles and cousins, were safe and uninjured.
For thousands of others, however, the next weeks will be spent trying to put their lives back together.
“A lot of people have been left homeless or are living in shattered houses,” she said.
The hospitals are overwhelmed and there are children who have been separated from their families, she said.
As well, the disaster comes at a time when Lebanon was already suffering greatly because of the pandemic, which drove food prices so high, many can hardly get enough to eat.
“Our family was barely making it by because of the pandemic,” she said. “Now, it’s 10 times worse than it was the day before the explosion.”
Abdulghany is grateful that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Canadian government will help any way it can in a message on Tuesday.
“Trudeau said he would help. That hits home for me,” said Abdulghany, who is 19 and came to Canada when she was two years old.
“Lebanon will always be my home. And so is Canada.
“Me, being Lebanese-Canadian, we’re very privileged where we live.”