Beirut blast too close to home for Bega Valley man

Wassim Hayfa, of Candelo on the NSW Far South Coast, says his family's homes were caught up in the shockwave of the Beirut blast (inset). Photo: Ben Smyth
Wassim Hayfa, of Candelo on the NSW Far South Coast, says his family's homes were caught up in the shockwave of the Beirut blast (inset). Photo: Ben Smyth

The devastating explosion that has torn through the heart of Beirut has also hit close to home for a small Lebanese community on the NSW Far South Coast.

At least 135 people were killed and there are reports of thousands of people injured after a stockpile of highly explosive material caught fire on Tuesday.

The shockwave from the massive blast also left around 250,000 people without homes fit to live in after windows were shattered and ceilings collapsed.

Wassim Hayfa, of Candelo on the NSW Far South Coast, said his parents and brothers, who live mere kilometres from the Beirut port district where the explosion happened, have left the city for the relative safety of his sister's home in the north of the country.

He has two brothers and a sister living in Lebanon as well as his mum and dad.

A friend of Mr Hayfa's who works in Bega had also confirmed his family back in Lebanon were safe and had left the capital.

Mr Hayfa said he woke to the news reports and numerous messages and videos being sent to him from Lebanon, which understandably left him as shaken as his own family.

"It's like the world was ending," Mr Hayfa said.

"My friend works in the hospital there, about 10km away. In one of the wards, the upper floor dropped and nurses have died. People who were on life support are dead."

Mr Hayfa also shows a video clip on his phone of a prayer service said to be around 20km from the blast site - even there the power cuts out and seconds later the ceiling panels come crashing down as the shockwave roars over.

"It brings back such bad memories," he said in reference to the devastating civil war that ran from 1975-1990, destroying much of Beirut.

"They will be waking up now to a totally different landscape - it's like it was waking up after the civil war and thinking 'what do we do now?'

"I'm so grateful I'm here where I can raise my son and not have him see the things I've seen."

Mr Hayfa said Lebanon would need the support of the international community for some time. The port blast destroyed the city's grain storage and the country's main route for food imports.

It also comes after what he said was "the worst two years we've had, economically".

"They don't deserve any more suffering.

"We need to get humble and look after each other - we need to realise what's most important in the world so this negative energy in the world doesn't rise any more."

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This story When a blast 14,000km away hits home in Australia first appeared on Bega District News.