'There is nothing left:' Milwaukee woman with ties to Beirut shares details of devastating explosion

More than 100 people were killed after a massive explosion in Lebanon's capital, Beirut on Tuesday, Aug. 4. Now, authorities overseas worry the death toll might be much higher with many more still missing.

An investigation is underway into how 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate -- a highly-explosive chemical -- came to be stored at a Beirut facility, ultimately leading to the devastation.

Damage in Beirut, Lebanon following an explosion on Aug. 4

That devastation is felt around the world, including in Milwaukee. Vera Maalouf, founder of the St. Sharbel Maronite Catholic Mission of Milwaukee, also works remotely as vice president of the Christian Television News Network in Beirut.

"People are sending me messages from Lebanon, people send your prayers; please pray for us, to find our family members. To find our missing friends," Maalouf said. "The local stations are running names of people, families are sending them names of people they don't know where they are. They don't know if they are alive, if they are in hospitals."

The network's studios are now in shambles.

Damage to Christian Television News Network in Beirut, Lebanon

"Destroyed. There is nothing left," Maalouf said. "One of the reporters that I know was injured...It is not just this one person. It is many people that have lost families, children, just devastated.

"It's catastrophic...Hospitals in and around Beirut are overwhelmed."

Maalouf worries that the devastation will last for many years to come.

"Seventy percent of the food supply in Lebanon comes through that port, that port is no longer there, so that is a major concern now," said Maalouf. "With the very, very bad economic situation prior to this in Lebanon, and then add to that, COVID, and then add to that this, people are saying, 'OK, my God, we have taken enough.'"

Lebanese Red Cross teams and others are responding to help and are asking for donations online.

Milwaukee parishioners say they are also looking into more ways to help from here. St. Sharbel is planning to hold a prayer service for Beirut this week. 

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