Australian mum Sally Faulkner has shared a heartbreaking message for Beirut after an agonising wait to find out if her children were safe following the horror explosion in the Lebanese capital.
She offered prayers for Lebanon after a chemical explosion ripped through the city where her oldest children Lahela, 9, and Noah, 7, live with their dad.
‘Pray for Beirut. For my children and their family, for my Lebanese followers, for anyone affected,’ Ms Faulkner wrote on Facebook.
The chemical explosion, believed to have been caused by ammonium nitrate in a storage unit, has killed at least 73 people and left more than 3,700 injured.
Smoke billowed from the city’s industrial port around 6pm on Tuesday before an enormous fireball exploded and blanketed the city in a thick mushroom cloud.
Ms Faulkner said she was going to take a break from social media after discovering that her children were safe.
‘Please pray for the people affected in the explosion in Beirut. I have confirmation that Lahela and Noah are ok.
‘Please keep them and their family in your prayers and thoughts.
‘I am so sad for Lebanon right now,’ she wrote.
Her children travelled to Beirut for a holiday with their dad Ali Elamine in May 2015 but never returned.
Ms Faulkner’s case became famous 11 months later when she and a 60 Minutes crew tried to recover the children but were instead arrested by Lebanese police.
While in prison Ms Faulkner handed custody of her children to her ex-husband and is now trying desperately to bring her kids back to Australia.
Ms Faulkner and Mr Elamine began dating in 2008 when she was an Emirates flight attendant, and had their first child in 2010.
They lived together as a family in Beirut until a car bomb exploded near their home in August 2013 and she returned to Brisbane with the children.
The distance between them ended their marriage, but Ms Faulkner said the couple remained amicable and Mr Elamine visited regularly, so she agreed they would visit Lebanon with him.
‘Ali was a good father and the kids loved him, I trusted him and never thought he would take them away forever,’ she wrote in a Facebook post.
‘Not long after arriving in Lebanon, Ali phoned me at home and told me that the kids would be staying with him and would never be returning to Australia.’
Ms Faulkner believed her ex-husband’s change of heart arose from her new relationship with her now-fiance Brendan Pierce.
Four days later she discovered she was pregnant with her third child, Eli. She and Mr Pierce have since had three children together names Eli, Izac and Iylah.
Child recovery agents hired by Channel 9 managed to grab Lahela and Noah and reunite them with their mother, but everyone was caught before they could leave.
Nine negotiated a $500,000 settlement to have kidnapping charges dropped and Ms Faulkner was forced to surrender custody before she could go home.
‘I have no contact whatsoever with Ali and he has refused requests from my lawyers to have any form of contact with Lahela and Noah,’ she wrote.
‘Welfare checks by the Australian Embassy in Beirut have been unsuccessful and my constant messages were left unanswered.’
Ms Faulkner has been running fundraising campaigns to support her legal battles in fighting for her children to return home.