24 Aug 2013

New Syria ‘gas attack footage shows girl in coma’

Unverified footage emerges of a young girl in a coma believed to be a victim of an alleged gas attack in Syria. Channel 4 News reporter Inigo Gilmore has the full story.

Warning: footage on this page is of a graphic and extremely distressing nature. Syrian rebel contacts made Channel 4 News aware of the footage of what also appears to show the horrific aftermath of an alleged chemical attack. Other footage, shot on 21 August, appears to show relatives clutching their poisoned children, clasping them, wailing a final goodbye. There is no way of independently verifying these images, but they are consistent with all the film that’s emerged since Wednesday’s attack near Damascus.

A young girl of four, maybe five, with soft brown curls lies in a large iron bed, a respirator strapped to her mouth, her eyes fixed beneath eyelids which just peep open. No one knows her name. No one has come to visit her.

Four days after she arrived in this Douma hospital, medical staff don’t know if any of her family are still alive. This fragile bundle of life was brought to the Douma field hospital half dead after the area was hit in a suspected attack on Wednesday which left hundreds dead.

‘Clinging to life’

Doctors are at a loss as to girl’s identity as no one has claimed her. She’s yet another child left clinging to life and cast adrift in the carnage of Syria’s ever more horrific conflict.

Standing above her bed Dr Odai glances tenderly towards the girl, who is tucked up under a sheet, her gentle breathing the only sign of life.

He told Channel 4 News: “We’re assuming her family are all dead because so far, no-one’s come to claim her.”

“We received more than 20 patients from this area” he continued. “Some of them are starting to have severe side effects. Most of the patients were able to communicate with us in one way or another, with the help of their family.”

‘Chemical gas’

“This child is starting to suffer from severe side effects due to these chemical weapons’ he said, adding “She has inhaled a large amount of the chemical gas, she has bad side effects.”

We know about the unidentified young girl thanks to the work of a local video journalist in the Douma area who Channel 4 News has been in contact with in recent days.

In another video we have obtained, a doctor says his patients have been exposed to a nerve gas – probably sarin:

A Syrian opposition spokesman told Channel 4 News that three survivors have been just smuggled out of Syria and more may follow.

They will have their hair and blood tested.

While activists and victims try to find out what caused the horrific deaths and injuries on Wednesday – the Syrian government is also trying to control the narrative of what happened that day.

On Saturday, Syrian state television showed what it claimed was a stash of chemical materials – and ones they say were in tunnels controlled by rebels.

Syria’s refugees

Meanwhile this grim conflict rolls on, with more airstrikes by the Syria regime on Saturday and more children dying and getting injured.

In total, about two million refugees have left Syria since the conflict began in mid-2011, according to the joint statement from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and UNICEF, the UN program for humanitarian aid to children.

“This one millionth child refugee is not just another number,” UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said in the statement.

“This is a real child ripped from home, maybe even from a family, facing horrors we can only begin to comprehend.”

The unnamed child in the Douma field hospital is just one of the many young victims.

Inigo Gilmore is a journalist specialising in foreign NEWS working for Channel 4 news. Follow him on Twitter @inigogilmore