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Resident describes Beirut blast that shook Lebanon

'Felt like an earthquake'

Philippe Tawileh was with his wife and children watching television after dinner when they heard a blast and felt the house shake.

The family of five who live in Byblos (Jbeil), about 40 kilometres north of Beirut in Lebanon, rushed to look out the window but couldn't see anything, Tawileh said in a WhatsApp interview Tuesday night.

"We felt like an earthquake and we heard the blast. It was very loud, big, huge."

That's when he turned on the news while simultaneously scrolling through his social media to find out what was happening.

Tawileh's 22-month-old son, Alexandre, was born in Montreal and is a Canadian citizen. His two other children are nine-year-old Andrew and eight-year-old Adriana.

His wife, Rawane Dagher, who is a pediatrician, recently accepted a job at a hospital in Montreal. They are waiting for their documents to immigrate, which have been delayed by the pandemic, he said. His parents and brother live in Quebec.

The massive explosion rocked Beirut Tuesday, flattening much of the city's port, damaging buildings across the capital and sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. More than 70 people were killed and 3,000 injured, with bodies buried in the rubble, officials said.

The blast struck with the force of a 3.5 magnitude earthquake, according to Germany’s geosciences centre GFZ, and it was heard and felt as far away as Cyprus more than 200 kilometres across the Mediterranean.

Global Affairs Canada said in a statement that it is closely monitoring the "tragic situation" in Beirut. It has received one request for consular assistance.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said a member of the Canadian Forces suffered non-life threatening injuries.

"We are providing support to the member," Sajjan said in a post on Twitter. "I wish them a speedy recovery."

The federal government says there are 10,996 Canadians in Lebanon who are registered in the Registration of Canadians Abroad database. However, as registration is voluntary, this is not a complete picture of Canadians in the country.

What caused the detonation was not immediately clear. Videos showed what appeared to be a fire erupting nearby just before the blast. Local TV stations reported that a fireworks warehouse was involved. The fire appeared to spread to a nearby building, triggering the more massive explosion, generating a shock wave.

A former Montrealer is among those who died in the blast.

Nizar Najarian lived many years in Montreal. The businessman had recently returned to his home country to get involved in politics.

Aref Salem, a Montreal city councillor, confirmed Najarian's passing.

Salem, a friend of the victim, said his wife and two children still live in Montreal.

"His wife left two weeks ago for a visit and his two children will leave tomorrow for the funeral," Salem said in an interview.



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