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P.E.I.'s Lebanese community devastated following explosion in Beirut

Paul Haddad, one of the many Lebanese residents living in Charlottetown, displays the Lebanese flag in a sign of solidarity following the devastating explosion that rocked Beirut on Tuesday.
Faoud Haddad, one of the many Lebanese residents living in Charlottetown, displays the Lebanese flag in a sign of solidarity following the devastating explosion that rocked Beirut on Tuesday. - Dave Stewart
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

Choking back tears, Fouad Haddad said it was like watching the Twin Towers in New York fall on 9-11.

The former Charlottetown businessman is one of many in the city’s Lebanese community struggling to cope with news of the massive blast that shook Beirut’s port area on Tuesday.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the explosion had killed at least 135 people and wounded more than 5,000.

“I was in shock,’’ Fouad Haddad told The Guardian. “Literally, I had hair on the back of my neck standing. I cannot explain it. To see this type of devastation right in the middle of a part in Beirut on top of everything else that’s going on there, that’s all they needed and that’s the last thing anybody would need.’’

Fouad spent the day on Wednesday trying to collect his thoughts and reach out to family. All of his relatives are OK, although he knew some of the people who died.

Paul Haddad
Paul Haddad

Charlottetown businessman and restaurateur Paul Haddad said he is devastated.

“My whole body went numb. I felt this shiver up through my whole body when I saw it,’’ said Paul, his voice quivering. “It reminded me of those nuclear explosions you see on those videos … I couldn’t think anymore. I was in total shock.’’

Paul said due to the time difference — Lebanon is six hours ahead of P.E.I. — he wasn’t able to contact anyone after the explosion on Tuesday. He was up at 6 a.m. on Wednesday making one call after another.

“There are a few people from Charlottetown that live in Beirut that are relatives of mine that I called first. Their windows all went out and there is glass everywhere. One of them lives probably 30 or 40 kilometres away and their windows exploded. They felt it in Cyprus (234 kilometres away) for God sake. Thank God, they’re OK.’’

Paul said what he’s seen online and heard from relatives in Lebanon would shake anyone to their core.

“People are still under rubble. There are screams and cries and the hospitals are packed and they can’t take anymore. There’s not enough nurses and doctors. It’s …’’ Paul said, stopping to compose himself, “tough. It’s hard for me to talk about this, and I’ve seen a lot in my life in Lebanon, but I’ve never seen anything like this. Unbelievable.’’

Fadi Rashed
Fadi Rashed

Fadi Rashed, president of the Canadian Lebanese Association of P.E.I., said they are trying to contact groups that will be raising money for aid programs.

“But, we want to make sure we’re choosing the right ones; that’s the problem,’’ Fadi said. “We want to make sure the money goes to the right people over there.’’

Those in the local Lebanese community say there is a lot of political unrest in a country that is still recovering from the civil war from 1975 to 1990.

Fadi said the explosion happened in the middle of a commercial port. It’s a draw for tourists in normal times. It’s also close to a residential area.

“People were already suffering. The economy has collapsed with the restrictions from the coronavirus … there’s no jobs; there’s no money; the dollar has collapsed. God help them,’’ Fadi said.

David Rashed
David Rashed

Charlottetown producer David Rashed said he was trying to wrap his head around how there could be so much explosive material in one spot.

“But, (the Lebanese people) are so resilient,’’ David said. “They live like today is their last day. They actually do that, and I’ve seen it first-hand. They have lived through so much and they really appreciate what they have when they have it and they know things can turn on a dime.’’

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