Syrian refugees in Turkey. AP/Press Association Images
four years on

Deadly chlorine attack kills entire family in Syria

More than 200,000 people have died since the conflict began in 2011.

SYRIAN DOCTORS have confirmed that a chlorine attack on Monday killed six people and poisoned a further 70 in the northwest of the country.

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said that helicopters were seen dropping barrels, which released a suffocating gas on impact with the ground.

The attacks happened around the rebel-controlled town of Sarmin, Idlib, where MSF supports the hospital in which the wounded were treated.

Jane-Ann McKenna, Director of MSF Ireland, said that attacking a village and its civilian population with chlorine “shows once again that the Syrian conflict knows no limits”.

“We saw people arriving at the hospital from a neighbouring village”, Dr T, the director of Sarmin hospital, said.

Amongst them, there was a family of three young children with their parents. They were in a very serious condition, dying. Their parents were able to speak but they were having a lot of difficulty breathing.

The entire family died in the hospital, whilst the grandmother of the children died of asphyxiation before reaching medical assistance.

MSF said the events and symptoms described by the medical staff at the hospital “leave no doubt as to the presence of chlorine poisoning”. There were no symptoms consistent with any other toxic products.

“It was dark so we couldn’t see any particular colour in the sky”, the hospital director said, adding: “The air smelt of cleaning products and their clothes had the distinctive smell of chlorine.”

The victims of the attack suffered varying degrees of severity and a number of people were acutely asphyxiated.

“There were 20 patients in serious condition, agitated, foaming blood at the mouth and showing skin rashes,” another hospital doctor told MSF.

Oxygen masks

The hospital team treated 70 victims: the inhabitants of a neighbouring village which had come under attack by the first barrel bombs, the inhabitants of Sarmin town which was attacked later during the night, and voluntary first aid workers of the Syrian Civil Defence affected when they arrived to give assistance.

The victims were given oxygen via aerosol masks, as well as treatments to dilate the bronchia of the lungs and treat related inflammation due to the burns suffered.

Mideast Syria Destruction in Aleppo AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

The hospital in Sarmin is one of a number of medical structures supported by MSF in the conflict affected and inaccessible areas of Syria. The organisation provides donations of drugs and medical supplies to a network of over 100 functioning health structures.

On Sunday, the Syrian conflict enter its fifth year. More than 200,000 people have died in fighting since 2011. A further 12 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.

There is “strong evidence” that the Syrian government used chlorine gas in attacks on rebels

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