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Saturday 21 September 2019

21 children killed in Syrian chemical attack still not identified

Dead children are laid out with ice after what was claimed to be a gas attack in Arbeen town, Damascus
Dead children are laid out with ice after what was claimed to be a gas attack in Arbeen town, Damascus

Twenty children killed in the deadly chemical attack in Damascus have not been identified, presumably because their families also died in it.

The young victims have been named from one to 20 as there is no way of knowing who they are.

Photographs of the children were obtained by ITV News after independent Syrian filmmaker Humam Husari interviewed volunteer paramedic Abu Akram in the town of Arbin in the Ghota area of Damascus.

Mr Akram said one of the children, a one-month-old girl identified only as "number 14", died in his arms from the attack.

He told ITV News: "Here at the field hospital in Arbin we took in approximately 600 patients who suffered in the chemical attack. We had registered 110 deaths and approximately 35 unregistered deaths.

"We have been unable to identify these 20 children."

Referring to the infant labelled number 14, he said: " We have this poor girl she was no older than a month. No-one's been able to identify her so she is unknown number 14.

"In terms of the women we have been able to identify most of them, only a few left. We have been able to identify 90% of them."

Gas masks are now being mass produced in a nearby factory in anticipation of further attacks.

Abu Ibrahim told the programme: "These are the masks so whenever anyone senses any chemicals and it's easy to carry so if it was a woman she can put it in her bag and it doesn't take up much space even if someone has a big pocket they can easily take it anywhere.

"The way you breathe is easy, it doesn't restrict, you can breathe easy. It covers the whole face from below the chin up until the eyes.

"We consulted doctors on this project. They told us that coal and sodium absorbs smells and diffuses harmful chemicals, so on took their advice on this...and it should help save lives...God willing."

Describing the thinking behind the masks, he said the materials they needed to construct them were hard to get hold of.

He went on: "We thought of the design, we saw lots of people using cloths or towels to protect themselves, so we thought there must be a better solution. So we started to think of design, we saw that coal is used in water filters, so we can use the same filters here, and cotton also purifies air so all of the textiles used in it are made of cotton.

"With the elastic which helps the mask stay put over the mouth and nose...makes it an effective mask, but of course it doesn't protect eyes. The materials are very hard to come by - that state is under lockdown.

"We just try and get what we can when we can from here or there because the country is on lockdown...it is very difficult to get these materials. We are using coal and sodium powder and we put them in between two layers of cotton and we use cotton foam.

"It won't be 100% protective but it can be 70% or 60% which can help people get away from danger. We are now trying to make it a 100% effective, we are working on that.

"We have has some people from other towns come to see what we do and they can copy the same technique in their provinces where they have textile factories they may be able to get these projects going."

By Jennifer Cockerell

PA Media

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