‘It’s a ghost town’: Edmontonians head to blast-shaken Beirut to offer aid


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Kirameddine, 29, said the last time he visited Lebanon was in 2017. He described Beirut, a city of approximately a million people, as being very busy, a stark contrast to what greeted them when they landed.

From left, Ali Gilani, Daniel Hassan, Nasser Kirameddine arrived in Beirut to offer aid. Supplied photo

Kirameddine and Hassan, who work with Islamic Relief Canada, will be offering aid such as clearing rubble, providing hygiene kits and leading a fundraising effort. Money raised will be matched by the Canadian government until Aug. 24. Islamic Relief Canada is part of a group of charities offering aid to the city.

Hassan said he was encouraged by the resilience shown by the Lebanese people following such a disaster.

“Just witnessing firsthand and hearing stories firsthand from a lot of people who have been affected was a lot to take in,” the 25-year-old said. “People definitely had a lot to say and it was very emotional at times. What was amazing was they very much wanted to have these conversations and they were happy to see that there are people from Canada out there.”

Travelling overseas has become more complicated following the start of the pandemic in March. Kirameddine said he and Hassan had to wear masks while on the plane, which is a more than 23-hour flight from Edmonton. Once the two arrived Monday night, they had to be quarantined for 48 hours.

Hassan said he’s been volunteering with the charity since 2016 but this was his first trip into the field. He said he simply connected with humanitarian work.

“These things kind of fall into your lap without you expecting it,” Hassan said. “Before you know it, you’re on the staff and you’ve been given this blessed opportunity to actually play a crucial role.”

Kirameddine said he was inspired by Hassan to give back as well, which motivated him to join the charity.

“You almost get addicted to it,” he said. “One side of it is the humanitarian work and seeing what you’re doing and helping people. The other side, in general, is the people that you’re dealing with that are also in the sector are just amazing people to be around.”

Kirameddine and Hassan will be staying in Beirut until Aug. 24.

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Twitter.com/jefflabine

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