Members of the New Brunswick Lebanese community are in shock after an explosion in Beirut killed more than 100 people and injured thousands.
Reem Fayyad was just finishing up her lunch break at work when she heard the news of the explosion Tuesday afternoon. She dropped everything and started calling family and friends she knew would be in the area.
"We were lucky enough that our loved ones were safe. They were not really majorly affected but I know of some of my friends who had loved ones or friends who got injured," she said.
"I heard of some people who are still missing."
The explosion shattered windows and broke doors in the areas surrounding the port near the centre of the Lebanese capital. The Lebanese government is blaming the explosion on 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate that was stored at the port for years, but why it exploded is not clear.
By Wednesday afternoon, at least 135 people had been reported dead and 4,0000 were injured.
Fayyad, who moved to Canada in 2010 and now works for the New Brunswick Health Council, said after checking in on her relatives in Lebanon, she checked on her Lebanese friends in New Brunswick to see how they're handling the news.
"It was intense at that moment in time," she said.
Richard Nakhle, owner of Byblos Restaurant in Fredericton, said he has lots of family in Beirut. He said thankfully none of them were injured, but many of their homes were affected by the blast, and some knew people who were injured by it.
"We have a cousin who lost her house," he said.
He said his friends and family in the city are in shock.
"Every minute goes by and they feel like it's going to happen again."
Nakhle said he was sad, upset and in disbelief as he watched and rewatched the videos.
"My heart was broken in pieces," he said.
Explosion brings back memories
It wasn't just the Lebanese community that is dealing with the aftermath of the explosion. Noor Ogli, who moved to Saint John from Syria by way of a refugee camp in Turkey, has relatives and friends in Beirut.
She said for her and them, the explosion triggers memories of war.
"It was like a volcano," she said.
"We don't want anything to happen in Lebanon like it happened in Syria. We have so many relatives there. Even if you have no relative there, they are people, innocent people, civil people, don't deserve to get killed like that."
Her brother Ahmad Ogli said he cried when he saw the videos of the explosion.
"You can't do anything but pray," he said. "We lived in the same situation they are living in right now."
Ahmad Ogli said he scrambled to call his friends in Lebanon, who are mostly refugees or workers at the port.
"It's heartbreaking," he said.
While it's not clear exactly what caused the explosion, the Lebanese government said it's putting an unspecified number of Beirut port officials under house arrest pending an investigation.
'It's a killer for them'
The explosion came at a time of economic turmoil for the people of Lebanon, said Nakhle and Fayyad, as people have been protesting high unemployment rates and a struggling healthcare system. And his cousins who had work are now unemployed because their workplaces have been destroyed.
"And now this happens, it's a killer for them," he said. "If you don't work, you don't eat."
Nakhle says part of him wishes he was home, so he can help.
"If I was, I'd be helping in my own vehicle," he said. "Help bring people to hospitals. Being here you can't really help with much."
Still, he said he will be donating to the Lebanese Red Cross, and encouraging others to do the same.