Dubai: Lebanese expatriates in the UAE are devastated after a blast rocked Beirut on Tuesday, leaving a trail of destruction and more than hundred deaths.
As Lebanese rescue workers dug through the rubble looking for survivors, here in the UAE, expats were mourning the loss of friends, loved ones, property, family businesses and more. A mix of emotions — anger, sadness and fear — took over Lebanese expatriates here on Tuesday and Wednesday. Many of these expats spent a sleepless night, worrying about their near and dear ones back home.
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Rana Al Hassan said: “We are shocked, devastated and sad. We have been crying. Our family is safe and thank God, but we will have to live through this horror for a long time.
My friend went to see her father in the hospital, she is still missing, along with her mother.
Rana said her mother, brother and grandmother live in Al Hamra area of Beirut. She said her mother was a witness to the horrific explosion. “My mother was driving past a school when the blast occurred. A security guard who was holding onto a metal gate just flew in the air with the gate in his hand! She was clueless about what happened to him. It is dystopian at its worst.”
“Shattered glass was strewn all over the city ,said my mother. She did not know how she would get home. Even as she drove in fear, seeing the gory sight of destruction, she had this looming fear about whether my brother and grandmother were safe in our Beirut flat. Thankfully, my family is safe but the house is shattered. The glass doors are destroyed. Beirut is destroyed,” she said of the house where the family had lived for nearly 15 years.
Rana said many of her neighbours were missing. “My friend went to see her father in the hospital, she is still missing, along with her mother.”
Another Lebanese expat living in Dubai, Ulma Joueidi, said her family business had come to an end. “Just overnight we have lost so much. It is unbelievable. The warehouses that are a part of our exhibition and events business have been completely destroyed. Our office and warehouses were in the Al Ashrafiya area close to the blast site. Now it’s all gone. The saving grace, and a big one that, is that all my family is safe. But the material loss is massive.
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“All I can do is pray, think positive and look ahead. My heart aches and I cried all night. Now I just feel tired,” she added.
Noor Sankary, 36, said his flat in Beirut in the downtown area had suffered damages. “The glass panes were shattered in the aftermath, my balcony door is gone,” said Sankary whose property is just 10 kilometres away from the blast site.
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Besides the material loss, he was grieving the loss of a friend. “My brother’s friend, who was a friend of mine as well, died in the blast yesterday. It is a sad day for me. I am praying and hoping we will get back to normal soon,” he said.
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Sankary said he was to travel to Lebanon for Eid and stay back for a couple of days. “I put it off at the last minute as I got busy with work. I would have been there if I had not put off my travel plans.”
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Layla A was devastated yesterday when she could not reach her family for four hours after hearing about the blast. “The network was so bad. A friend texted me, asking if my family was all right. That was when I switched on the television to see the news. I was shocked. Immediately I started calling my family, but to no avail. It was only after four hours that I got to speak to my brother for just five minutes. I have been crying ever since.”
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Layla said her brother’s house was totally destroyed in the aftermath of the blast. “He has three young children. When and how will he rebuild the house?” she wondered.
Rana said: “Everyone you speak to in Lebanon thinks the explosion had happened right on their street because it was felt all over Beirut. How many more times will the people of Lebanon have to re-build their homes in this current economic crisis and hyper-inflation?”
‘I lost my childhood friend’
Abu Dhabi resident Bashar Abdel Samad, 31, an engineer by profession was mourning the loss of his childhood friend Mazen Zewyhed. “When I heard about the blast, I called my family first. Once I knew they were safe, I started calling up my friends. That is when I found that Mazen was missing. I messaged him and it did not go through. I tried calling him, but was unable to reach him. After four dreadful hours, another friend called me to say that he was gone. I am shocked, devastated and grieving.”
Samad said he did not have too many friends and Mazen was really special in his life. “We lived in the same neighbourhood – Choueifat. We went out together, had common friends. Our parents knew each other. We were like brothers and now he is gone.”
The Abu Dhabi expat could not control his emotions while speaking about his best friend. “He died on the job. He was working when he lost his life. Mazen wanted to move out of Lebanon and work in Africa, but that was not to happen.”
He added: “I am yet to gather enough courage to speak to his family.”