Beirut blast: Lebanese expats in UAE still haunted by the incident


Dubai - Lebanese expats in the UAE say for them the trauma still lingers...and probably will linger through life.


James Jose

Published: Tue 3 Aug 2021, 7:27 PM

It was an explosion that quite literally shook the world. And the reverberations are being felt even today.

A year to this day, Beirut was shaken to its core as 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored at a port caused a catastrophic explosion, leaving 214 dead, 6,500 injured and rendering 300,000 homeless. Close to 9,200 buildings and 73,000 apartments were damaged in the massive blast. An estimated 70,000 people lost their jobs in the aftermath of the explosion. And adding to the instability in the country, it couldn’t have happened at a worse time.

As Wednesday marks one year since the explosion, Lebanese expats in the UAE say for them the trauma still lingers...and probably will linger through life.

“It is a very tragic event that happened and it has affected many people on many different levels,” said Natalie Habib, who was born in the UAE but studied in Lebanon for a brief while. “We were already going through a very tough time economically, people were struggling financially, and the explosion happened and many people lost their lives, lost their houses.” Habib, who last travelled to Lebanon in 2019, said many of her friends’ businesses were hit badly. “I do have a few friends who had their businesses affected by it. It was very hard for them. Fortunately, some people ended up leaving the country because things kept getting worse in Lebanon,” she added.

But despite the tragedy and the instability, Habib believes things will look up soon enough. “I believe everything is a phase and eventually things will change. It was a very sad incident, but I’m just hoping that things can get better for everyone,” Natalie hoped.

Another Lebanese expat Professor Haitham El Solh, who moved to the UAE in 2009 said that some family members and friends suffered damages to their homes and businesses. “I didn’t lose anyone, but I have many family members and friends who lived close to the area and they were affected damage-wise and most importantly, psychologically,’ said Professor Haitham.

Professor Haitham, who completed his university studies in Lebanon, said his cousin immediately left the country as the trauma lingers on.

“I have a cousin and a friend who used to be live and work at American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC), which used to be called the American University Hospital. These people found it extremely difficult to live in Lebanon after the blast because of the psychological trauma. My second cousin, who came to Dubai, still suffers from nightmares. Every time someone slams the door at their home, he jumps and is shaken, as it reminds him of the blast when he was working at AUBC on that horrible day,” revealed Professor Haitham.

“And, of course, it is compounded by the economic crisis that everybody knows about. So, whatever money that he was making - which used to be decent for a nurse in one of the most renowned hospitals in Lebanon — is no longer enough to pay for his living expenses.

“And he’s still a young and single man. Now, imagine how much more difficult it is for a family.

“I know two people who have been affected by this and had to move, even though they did not want to,” the 46-year-old added.

Jamil Gerges, on the other hand, had friends who were injured in the explosion and had their houses damaged.

“None of my family or relatives were injured because they live a couple of hours away from where the explosion happened. But I did have friends who were injured and their houses were damaged. And there were a few who lost their lives while they were working,” said Jamil, who was born and raised in Dubai.

Jamil said that a friend, who survived the explosion, suffered a traumatic experience and was emotionally affected. The friend relocated to Dubai after the blast and has recovered from the panic attacks. But it took a while.

“The friend suffered minor injuries from the blast. Unfortunately, the massive sound of the explosion left my friend in terrible trauma. The person has a fear of hearing specific sounds that bring back horrific images of explosion,” the 29-year-old said.

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