A day after an explosion shattered Lebanon's capital, the death toll is rising and a major rescue operation is underway. Many are still missing.
Lebanon's president vowed to conduct a full investigation into what caused the deadly blast.
It happened at a port warehouse where more than 2,000 tons of ammonium nitrate was being stored.
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Father Assaad ElBasha, with Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church in Lewisville, has been watching the developments closely.
“We are following every detail,” he said.
ElBasha grew up in Lebanon and has family in Beirut.
But you don’t need to know people there to be affected because the product some suspect ignited the blast in Beirut has caused explosions in Texas.
Seven years ago, ammonium nitrate blew up at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas, killing 15 people.
In 1947, ammonium nitrate detonated on a ship in Texas City, killing more than 400 people.
The damage from the blast 73 years ago is now described as the closest comparison to the Beirut explosion.
Father ElBasha said his family in Beirut was at a wedding outside the capital city when the blast happened.
“My sister lost her house, my brother has all the windows, all the doors are down. But we are so thankful they were in the wedding, nobody got hurt,” he said.
Beirut was the backdrop for a photoshoot with a bride-to-be who was in the middle of recording a video when the blast hit.
In the video, the groom is seen rushing the bride to safety.
Photographer Mahmoud Nakib recorded it all.
“Just one second, everything destroyed around us,” Nakib said.
Father ElBasha said the damage reminds him of the Lebanese Civil War he grew up in.
“All the bad memories came back,” he said.
Between the coronavirus and a bad economy, ElBasha said his life in Lebanon was already unraveling before the blast that changed the city in an instant.
He said donations to support Christian and Catholic charities in Lebanon can be made by check to "Our Lady of Lebanon." The church expects to set up an online donation option in the next couple of days.
More information can be found at https://ourladylebanon.com/.