LONDON, ONT. -- It was a “city of life” but it’s now been reduced to rubble and despair.

That’s how a former imam of the London Muslim Mosque is describing Beirut after Tuesday’s explosion.

Jamal Taleb spoke to CTV News London Tuesday via Facetime. He said the stories of struggle are heart-wrenching.

“Too many people lost their lives. I heard today a family of nine. I heard a child was looking for his mommy and daddy under the rubble.”

Taleb is visiting his mother in Tripoli, about 80 kilometres from the blast. He said the country needs help more now than ever. He said he believes Canada will do its part.

“People really, they need help now. Schools [are] being shut down. Hospitals cannot carry on. I would say this is a disaster and I think Canada has to play its role by helping, by lending a hand to those needy families.”

Back in London, Ont., the Lebanese Canadian Cultural Club has already begun a fundraising campaign.

Club president, Dr. Majed Fiaani, said members met for several hours Wednesday evening trying to come up with ideas to get immediate help to the area. He said the group has begun a fundraising campaign for the global humanitarian organization World Vision.

“We want to rise and take action and do things that will help people on the ground who are suffering - a lot of people we believe homeless. They need immediate help, and that’s what we’re doing.”

The group is hoping to raise $50,000 in the short term through an online campaign and with the help of local businesses.

In the meantime, as aid flows into Lebanon, Taleb says people are having a hard time coming to grips with the shock and devastation.

“The people of Lebanon now [are] asking too many questions. Why this material was there, hundreds of metres from the home of civilians and citizens? So Beirut lost its beauty now.”