Nepalis in Lebanon shaken after deadly blast rocks BeirutNo casualties reported among Nepalis, honorary consul based in the city says.
Chandan Kumar Mandal
Jenny, a Nepali migrant worker, had a normal Tuesday in Bikfaiya, a Lebanese town around 26 km west of the capital Beirut. As the day came to an end, she was resting in her room when she heard a powerful explosion at around 6:30 pm local time (9:15 pm NST).
The explosion in the port area of Beirut left Jenny, who has been living in the Western Asian country for nearly five years, scared as millions of people across the globe, including her, found out what had happened.
“My town is nearly an hour away from Beirut. But the explosion was so powerful that it felt like it took place in my neighbourhood,” Jenny told the Post over phone. “I immediately looked out from my window to see what had happened.”
The Tuesday evening explosion that rocked Beirut has killed at least 100 so far and left several hundreds injured. The blast ripped through the capital city’s port area leaving behind a trail of destruction. Window panes were shattered and buildings damaged even several kilometres away from the incident site. The explosion was even heard in the neighbouring island of Cyprus, around 240 kilometres away from the Lebanese capital.
Nepalis living and working in the country were in a state of shock following the powerful blast, which the local authorities said was caused by an estimated 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate left unsecured in a warehouse in the port area.
“God, I am saved! I hope Nepali brothers and sisters living in Lebanon are safe too,” Chandra Joshi Suman, wrote on her Facebook soon after the blast. “I am nearly four km away from the blast site, but I could feel an earthquake. There is not a single undamaged building here. Windows have been shattered.”
Soon after visuals from the blast went on social media, concerns were raised for the safety of Nepalis living in the country, where they have been migrating for work and also posted under UN peacekeeping forces.
“I was at work when the blast occurred. It felt like a 10-Richter earthquake,” said Ashok Thapa, who has been living in the country for 11 years. “We all got scared and thought it was a big bomb. When we came out, we could see a red smog in the air. It terrified us, as we used to go around that place on weekends,” said Thapa, who is also the president of the Lebanon chapter of the Non-Resident Nepali Association.
Thapa said that a Nepali migrant worker, Roja Tamang, suffered a cut on her left hand, after the blast. “The rest of the Nepalis are safe.”
The blast also damaged the building that houses the Honorary Consulate of Nepal in the city. Mohamed Ghouzayel, Nepal's honorary consul general for Lebanon, told the Post the country hosts nearly 5,000 Nepalis, including workers and peacekeeping forces.
“We have not received any reports of Nepalis suffering any injuries until now,” Ghouzayel told the Post on Wednesday afternoon. According to Ghouzayel, around 2,000-3,000 Nepalis work as domestic help, around 1,000 as factory workers and the rest are serving as peacekeepers.
Following the blast, hospitals in Beirut have been struggling to treat thousands of people wounded in Tuesday’s explosion that damaged property worth $3billion.
The country, dealing with spirals of the economic crisis since last year, has been hit hard by the global Covid-19 pandemic. First the pandemic, and now the explosion has left Nepali workers' families worried about their safety in the country. After Covid-19 cases once again spiked in the country, the Lebanese government, last week, reimposed Covid-19 restrictions for two weeks.
“After my families watched visuals from the explosion, they started calling me,” said Jenny. “My mom has been crying since yesterday. They want me to return home. But the country is in lockdown, and I don’t know when I can go home.”