In the hours after the massive explosion that shook Lebanon on Tuesday, leaving at least 100 people dead and more than 4,000 injured, Palestinian and Syrian refugees living in and on the outskirts of Beirut leapt into action, offering their homes and their blood to those in need.
Kamal, a-28-year-old third-generation Palestinian refugee who was born in Lebanon was one of many to race to help those affected by the deadly blast.
Speaking with Newsweek on Tuesday, Kamal, who requested that his real name be withheld, said he had been driving back to his home in Wadi El Zayni, a village just outside Beirut, when he felt the ground shake.
“I was driving my car back home, 15 mins away from Beirut… and it felt like a literal earthquake,” he said. “I lost control of the car for a second.”
When he and other drivers saw “the cloud” that formed in the explosion’s wake, they “were traumatized” as they struggled to make sense of the chaos unfolding before them.
At first, he said, “everybody thought it was a bombing.”
“We only knew what really happened when we reached our houses,” he said.
On Wednesday, Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab said the blast was caused by more than 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, which had been left unsecured at a warehouse near Beirut’s port for six years.
Investigations are still underway, however, to determine what led up to the explosion.
As soon as Kamal realized what had happened, he sought to help those affected by the disaster in any way he could.
The 28-year-old, who regularly volunteers with the Lebanese Red Cross, immediately took to social media to offer anyone displaced by the blasts a place to stay in his home.
Friends living at the Shatila refugee camp in Beirut, he said, also extended the same offer, hoping to provide refuge for those in need.
While Kamal said no one took him up on the offer, residents in Beirut did reach out asking him for help fleeing the area to the homes of family members and friends that were not affected by the blasts.
The 28-year-old said he made several trips to help displaced Beirut residents find refuge elsewhere.
Meanwhile, he said, Palestinian and Syrian refugees had also begun donating blood, hoping to help the thousands of victims injured in the blast, with many left critically injured by the explosion.
Knowing what it is like to feel “scared” and “with no place to go,” Kamal said many refugees living in and on the outskirts of Beirut have rushed to help the thousands of people displaced by and injured in the explosion.
“We haven’t been treated in the best of ways, to say the least, in Lebanon,” he said, noting that while Lebanon continues to host the largest number of refugees in the world per capita, heavy restrictions continue to limit Palestinian refugees from working, buying property and accessing health care and other services in the country. “But, standing by those in need is part of our culture,” Kamal said.
“We know first hand what it means to not be able to sleep under a proper roof at night; we’ve experienced wars one generation after the other; we know how it feels to be scared and hungry with no place to go,” he said. “So, our instinct is to offer all that when we see others going through it.”
Since his initial social media posts offering support, Kamal has continued to offer support, writing that he would be willing to help anyone in need of money, shelter, transportation or even help repairing their homes in the wake of the disaster.
Meanwhile, the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) a humanitarian organization that is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, has also been working alongside the Lebanese Red Cross to support those affected by the explosion, as an outpouring of international support continues to flood into Lebanon.
(Source: News Week)