18 Mar 15 28 Nov 16

Syria: 70 poisoned and 6 killed in deadly Chlorine attack

Syrian doctors have confirmed to Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) that a chlorine attack on March 16 has killed six people and poisoned a further 70 in northwest Syria.

Helicopters were seen dropping barrels which released a suffocating gas on impact with the ground, around the rebel-controlled town of Sarmin, Idlib, where MSF supports the hospital in which the wounded were treated.

Chlorine gas attack

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

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

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

Chlorine poisoning

“It was dark so we couldn’t see any particular colour in the sky”, stated the hospital director. “But 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,” said another hospital doctor.

The hospital team treated 70 people in total for poising; including inhabitants of a neighbouring village which had come under attack by barrel bombs earlier that day, residents of yet another nearby town which was attacked later that night were treated along with voluntary first aid workers of the Syrian Civil Defence who had arrived to give assistance.

The victims were given oxygen as well as treatments to dilate the bronchia of the lungs and treat burn related inflammation, a doctor stated that the aerosol masks were the most effective tools for safe breathing.

MSF in Syria

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.

MSF operates six medical facilities inside Syria and support directly more than 100 clinics, health posts and field hospitals. MSF is also working with patients from Syria who have fled to Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.


Find out more about MSF's work in Syria