London’s Lebanese community commemorates 2nd anniversary of Beirut explosion

The August 4, 2020 explosion in the port of Beirut that killed 214 people is not forgotten for members of the Lebanese community in London, Ontario, who, despite being here in Canada, work to support the victims of the explosion.

Around 75 people gathered in Gibbons Park on Sunday to commemorate the anniversary of the blast and raise funds to support the thousands of people who have been displaced as a result. The “March for Lebanon” was organized by the Lebanese Canadian Cultural Club of London (LCCCL).

“Just knowing that my loved ones are facing such stress and going through this because of the explosion adds stress to our life here because there is not much we can do to help and support them,” said Bahaa Zouki, a resident of London, who attended the march. to support his family back in Lebanon.

Two years ago, around 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate exploded near the center of Beirut. The LCCCL says it left 214 dead, more than 5,000 injured and left 300,000 people homeless with significant damage to property and livelihoods.

Zouki, who recently returned from a month-long visit to Lebanon, says people have been affected on many levels, including mentally, socially and financially. Seeing the country in its current state was sad, she said.

« They’re still dealing with the remnants of what happened, and now there are physical changes in the environment, so people have to leave their homes and go up into the mountains and stay with relatives for days to get away from it, » she said.

« catastrophic » economic situation

LCCCL secretary Rima Menassa said the blast is only part of the challenges the Lebanese face, calling its current economic situation « disastrous ».

« Besides the explosion, the country’s economic collapse has impoverished many people who are currently struggling to feed themselves, » Menassa said.

« A lot of people have lost hope and are trying to leave the country because of this, everyone is trying to get through it but it’s really difficult. There’s a lot of despair unfortunately, people are really desperate there and they need our help. »

Rima Menassa is secretary at the LCCCL. (Isha Bhargava/CBC)

Mahassen Hayek remembers his nephew’s house near the site of the explosion being destroyed. While she is grateful he was not home at the time and avoided any injury, she says the tragedy has upended the life her family was used to living.

« My whole family had to move from one place to another, the explosion really devastated Lebanon’s economy and everyone is suffering, » she said.

Mahassen and Ahmed Hayek believe that the Canadian government must eliminate the sanctions imposed on Lebanon, which further aggravates an already bad financial situation. (Isha Bhargava/CBC)

Hayek says Beirut’s infrastructure was significantly destroyed and many people depended on it for their livelihood. Many of her relatives are unable to find jobs due to poor economic conditions, she said.

Hayek’s husband, Ahmed, believes the Canadian government must do more to get rid of the sanctions imposed on Lebanon, which are worsening an already dire situation.

« We have people starving, and that’s not acceptable as human beings, » he said. « So we need to help our friends, family and humans by lifting the sanctions against them. »

Menassa says she is grateful to the London community who have come together to make a concerted effort to help those affected by the blast and she hopes it can make a difference, however small.

All proceeds from the event will go to World Vision to help Lebanese victims.

According to LCCCL, the Lebanese diaspora in London is made up of more than 10,000 people.

A young LCCCL volunteer wears a Lebanese flag on her hair. (Isha Bhargava/CBC)


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