Beirut explosion: Edinburgh couple launch fundraiser after parents hit in fatal blast

‘In the initial call we received no one was making any sense and we could just hear Dany’s family saying ‘there’s blood everywhere.’

An Edinburgh couple has launched a fundraiser to support the relief effort in Lebanon after their relatives suffered serious injuries in the country’s recent fatal explosion.

Emma Hokayem, 33, returned home on Tuesday to find her husband Dany, originally from Lebanon, on a distressing call with his mum and dad who were in Beirut at the time of the freak blast.

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The pair, both in their 50s, had been hit and suffered broken bones, deep cuts to the head, and serious bruising between them when the explosion sent shockwaves across the city on the afternoon of August 4.

Emma and Dany Hokayem with their 16-month-old son Daniel and Laudy and John Hokayem just out of hospital following the Beirut explosion

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'There was no hesitation. I said 'no matter what happens I'm making the right ch...

Speaking to The Edinburgh Evening News, Emma said she and Dany, who live in Balerno with their 16-month-old son Daniel, feel helpless not being able to fly out to Lebanon to be with their relatives in this traumatic time due to coronavirus restrictions.

In a bid to do what they can from Scotland, the concerned couple set up a fundraiser to raise as much money as they can to support those who have lost their homes in the fatal explosion which has left many dead and hundreds of thousands homeless.

"The whole experience has been horrific,” Emma said.

“In the initial call we received no one was making any sense and we could just hear Dany’s family saying ‘there’s blood everywhere’.

"At that point we didn’t know what had happened, and what was more frightening was not knowing the extent of their injuries.”

1km from explosion

Dany’s parents, John and Laudy Hokayem, live one kilometre from where the explosion happened and are lucky to be alive, according to Emma.

His sisters Daniella and Daisy, who also live in Beirut, were uninjured in the incident.

To put it in perspective, Emma said if the explosion happened in Edinburgh’s city centre, it would have damaged areas out to Musselburgh, Prestonpans and Currie.

The major blast is believed to have started in a warehouse at the Port of Beirut when a roof caught alight and there was a large initial explosion, followed by a series of smaller blasts that some witnesses said sounded like fireworks going off.

What happened 30 seconds later took residents by surprise after a colossal explosion sent a mushroom cloud into the air and a supersonic blastwave radiated through the city.

“It just came as the biggest shock to John and Laudy,” Emma said.

"They have lived through years of civil unrest but said nothing like this has ever hit them so hard, physically.

“They were just relaxing at their home when it happened. Mum was on the balcony and dad was having a nap when suddenly the glass blew in and shattered across the floor.

"Laudy was thrown from one side of the balcony to the other and broke her arm, and glass sliced through and practically cut John’s ear in half.

"Both of them have suffered horrific bruising and deep wounds from the glass.

"One of the hardest parts was hearing them, fragile, on the other end of the phone saying: ‘We thought we’d never see you again’.”

Fortunately, Dany has family outside of Beirut who have been able to take his parents in while the city continues to struggle in the aftermath of the industrial disaster.

Fundraiser

Despite chaos ensuing with protesters taking to the streets blaming Lebanon’s leaders for the deadly blast, Emma said she is moved by the community strength among Beirut’s residents.

"Before Dany’s parents managed to get out of the city there was so much support shown for one another among neighbours,” she added.

"Within hours of it happening there were youngsters sweeping the streets, helping move the rubble and offering John and Laudy help because they could see they were wrapped up in bandages.

"It’s just made me want to do what I can to help these poor people, many of whom have been left with nothing.”

Emma and Dany have chosen to fundraise for the Lebanese Red Cross, which is currently assisting with the relief in Beirut.

“I chose this organisation in particular because it’s mission is to promote peace, serve the society, and alleviate human suffering with neutrality and without any racial, sexual, social, religious or political discrimination,” Emma added.

To help them in their effort to support those affected by the fatal explosion visit their ‘Scotland helping Lebanon’ gofundme page which has raised more than £1,000 so far.

What we know so far

Lebanon officials said the death toll from the explosion killing at least 157 people and injuring 5,000 others was expected to rise as search-and-rescue operations continued for people listed missing under the rubble in areas near the port.

The country’s authorities have so far taken into custody 16 individuals as part of an investigation into the historic explosion.

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