At Least 70 Killed In Suspected Chemical Attack in Syria's Douma

| April 8 , 2018 , 15:04 IST

At least 70 people have been killed and hundreds of others affected on Saturday in a suspected chemical attack in Douma, the last rebel-held stronghold near Syria's capital Damascus.

The 'White Helmets' a group of rescuers operating in opposition-held areas in Syria told Al Jazeera that most of the fatalities were women and children and that the death toll was expected to rise since many people were in critical condition.

"Seventy people suffocated to death and hundreds are still suffocating," Raed al-Saleh, head of the White Helmets, said, adding that chlorine gas and an unidentified but stronger gas are suspected of being dropped on Douma.

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"White Helmet volunteers are trying to help the people but all that we can do is evacuate them to another area by foot because most of the vehicles and centres went out of service," al-Saleh said.

Moayed al-Dayrani, a resident of Douma and medical volunteer, said to Al Jazeera that doctors were struggling to reach all the victims since much of the city is destroyed due to air strikes.

"Douma has been subject to intense air strikes and much of the city is destroyed," al-Dayrani said.

"We are currently dealing with more than 1,000 cases of people struggling to breathe after the chlorine barrel bomb was dropped on the city. The number of dead will probably rise even further," he said.

According to videos shared by rescue workers, the victims showed symptoms consistent with a gas attack, with white foam around their mouths and noses.

While the United States government has warned of a 'global response' against Syria if the reports of a chemical attack are confirmed, the Syrian government has called the reports of chemical attack a fabrication, and dismissed reports of the Syrian army using poisonous gas as "farcical".

The Syrian government has been accused of using chemical warfare against the armed opposition in recent years, but has denied the allegations.