Syria gas attack: ‘We found bodies all over the floor’

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Survivors and aid workers share their stories of horror and shock after suspected chemical attack in Syria.

Survivors of a suspected chemical attack in Syria’s Idlib province and aid workers on the scene say they are still in shock and struggling to recover from the distressing event of the attack.

“It’s just indescribable,” Othman al-Khani, local activist and witness said. “We saw people suffocating while their lungs were collapsing. The hardest was watching the children as we stood there unable to provide any sort of assistance, and medics sprayed them with water” to disperse the chemical substance, Khani told Al Jazeera.

Tuesday’s air raids on the Khan Sheikhoun neighbourhood left at least 70 civilians killed and 557 wounded, according to local medics.The United Nations said it would investigate the attack as a possible war crime.

Hani Ahmed al-Qutaini, another witness, described the attack as “a painful experience”.

“When the first strike hit at approximately 6:30am, people were asleep in their homes, nobody was aware what kind of attack this was,” said Qutaini, who is also a volunteer with the Syrian Civil Defence, otherwise known as the White Helmets.

Qutaini was at home, a few kilometres away from the scene of the attack, when the first bombs hit. “We rushed on to the streets and as we were approaching the scene, we were shocked to see people saying that there was an extremely bad smell that took over the area –  everyone who approached the scene got extremely dizzy and fainted,” he told Al Jazeera.

According to Qutaini, there were a total of four air strikes on the same area. As he and a team of first-responders approached the scene, he said they realised it was poisonous gas that hit the village. “We were not all equipped. We wore basic masks and don’t have access to advanced anti-gas masks,” he said. “Some of the medics were affected as a result. A handful fainted and they had to request for backup”.

“We found bodies all over the floor. We are simply speechless, there is nothing left to say,” Qutaini said.

He added that an ambulance was able to transfer casualties, many of whom were women and children, to 100 emergency points, including hospitals.

“It was a very painful experience. The effect of the gas is instant. It was so strong. There were three or four gas bombs in one area, within 500 metres of each other. Can you imagine?” Qutaini added. “They were four bombs and many people died on the spot. There was virtually no time for people to react.”

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