I stand today to provide my deepest condolences to the people of Beirut and Lebanon after the tragedy that unfolded on 4 August. Werriwa, like many other Australian communities, has strong links to Lebanon. Over 10,000 residents in Werriwa claim Lebanese ancestry, with over 3,500 having been born there. Many still have family, friends and other strong connections to the country. I can only imagine how each of them felt when they saw the devastating news on the morning of 4 August. On the eve of the 75th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, those dreadful images, reminiscent of the nuclear blasts, stunned the global community. As in any unfolding emergency disaster, it would have taken several agonising hours for news to come through about the fate of loved ones. I know from calls to my office that it took days before some were able to talk to those loved ones overseas. Devastatingly, the current death toll is over 300, with a further 6,000 injured and more than 300,000 people declared homeless. To put that staggering figure in perspective, that is the population of Wollongong—now displaced and without a home.
I extend my personal condolences to each of the families affected by the disaster, especially the parents of Isaac Oehlers, the young Australian who perished in the blast. I also call on the government to continue to provide humanitarian support to assist with the rebuilding and what now needs to happen in Lebanon.