Lebanon runner's thoughts are with family

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 July, 2006, 12:00am

Lebanon's Oussama Farhat escaped the bombing of Beirut airport by 15 minutes, but the nightmare followed him all the way to Macau at the weekend.

Farhat, 18, was the sole Lebanese representative at the 12th Asian Junior Championships, but his mind was in Beirut after learning that his home had been destroyed by Israeli bombs.

'I couldn't concentrate. My entire mind was on the bombing when I ran,' he said of his 10th place finish in the 5,000 metres on Saturday. Farhat did not even remember his time for the distance. 'I was very sad to learn that my neighbourhood had been levelled.'

Farhat's parents, brother and two sisters live in Beirut's southern suburb of Dahya, one of the worst-hit districts of the capital. After the bombing started, they moved to the town of Alayh, less than 8km southeast of Beirut.

'Thank God they are all right - I talked to my sister last night,' he said. 'They had moved to my grandma's home in Alayh.'

Farhat said Beirut's telephone network had failed and he could not contact any friends. He said he had to rely on news reports each day.

'I am very worried but there's no way of reaching them. The phone lines and internet cables all went down,' said Farhat, who cannot return to Beirut because the airport is shut and the Lebanon-Syria border temporarily closed

Farhat will leave Hong Kong today for Qatar. He will then travel to Syria.