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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Douma CW Massacre: See-Sawing Death Toll Reports

Douma CW Massacre: See-Sawing Death Toll Reports
April 19, 2018
updates 4/20,21

Why the Confusion?
Many reasons have been given for the unclear death toll in the alleged chemical attack in Douma on April 7. An April 18 AP report notes "Much ... remains unknown, including the exact death toll, because of the lack of an independent investigation." http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/chlorine-chaos-death-syria-attack-54550403

But tallies by the opposition parties would be handed to investigators, and likely repeated with no verification. The problem seems to be a lack of consensus within the opposition camp, with varying numbers supplied by different parties and at different times. The main reason they give for the uncertainty is regime things making it hard to count, in at least two specified ways floated the day after the incident:
"The continued assaults made it hard for rescue workers to look for victims, he said, meaning that it was difficult to establish a comprehensive death toll.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/08/world/middleeast/syria-chemical-attack-ghouta.html
"The Syrian Civil Defense group [White Helmets] documented 42 fatalities but was impeded from searching further by strong odors that gave rescuers difficulties breathing, said Siraj Mahmoud, a spokesman for the group."
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/syria-chemical-weapon-attack-douma-leaves-dozens-dead-opposition-says-04-08-2018/
Even equipped with gas masks they could go no further, and had to stick with that count for days and up to now, 12 days later we hear no one can verify any more than this.

https://www.uossm.us/42_confirmed_dead_in_massive_chemical_attack_in_ghouta?recruiter_id=659
"due to conflicting reports, and difficulty gathering data," the UOSSM had thought 70 or more died, but then by April 9 decided could only confirm the White Helmets' 42. There would be more, but it seemed unclear how many.

But instead of the usual slow creep of confirmed deaths, we have a span running from 35 up to about 200, reported alternately from the start, almost as if someone had a full, very large count, and was trying to conceal that, and leave the impression of unclear but rising toll

The Reports
The earliest reports had low tolls for chemical victims. Ferocious or "hysterical" regular bombing had killed dozens, but the chlorine drops were a side-issue.
http://www.france24.com/en/20180407-air-strikes-pound-syria-rebel-douma-ghouta-assad
about 70 people killed that day in regular bombing attacks, and "eleven people also suffered breathing problems" from "poisonous chlorine gas," with no mention of deaths.
(April 10: "A Syrian family of 11 died heaped together in the bathroom.The parents had tried in vain to wash the toxic gas off their kids'skin. On stairwell rescuers found a trail of foam,coughed up from lungs, which led to another dead mother & her daughters #Douma"
https://twitter.com/shaml_coalition/status/983631507452514305
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/syria-family-of-11-clung-together-in-death-9gqmzmdjv)
Soon, reports of deaths:
The medical relief organization Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) meanwhile also said that a chlorine bomb hit Douma hospital, killing six people, and that a second attack with "mixed agents" including nerve agents had hit a building nearby.
http://www.dw.com/en/dozens-dead-in-suspected-chemical-weapons-attack-in-syria/a-43296814
(Otherwise, little reports mention CW deaths in the early attacks)
"Mohammed Marhoum, a medical worker saw around 70 chlorine victims "and said six of them died."
April 12 http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/04/what-really-happened-in-the-syria-chemical-attack.html

I'm still looking for the smallest and earliest entries, but side from six, I see nothing yet - it pretty quickly jumped to 40 dead, as widely reported, via the White Helmets.
https://twitter.com/SyriaCivilDef/status/982735364518567937
April 8 1:42 am (local time)
At 20:22 on Saturday 7th April a helicopter dropped a barrel bomb that contained a chemical agent in Douma, an enclave in Eastern Ghouta. 40 people, largely children and women, have been killed with hundreds being treated at medical centers. #Noimpunity.
Note: this is just over 3 hours after the attack, by their time.

In the following days, a confirmed "35+" was widely reported, and then largely settled round 42 or 43 killed. Most just say "dozens." Usually, it's claimed these were mostly women and children. One count gave 11 children and 2 women among the 35 confirmed (and thus 22 men).
Others have brought us up to 70 or so, along with hints that it's really quite a bit higher.
April 8: ""Seventy people suffocated to death and hundreds still suffocating," Raed al-Saleh, head of the White Helmets, told Al Jazeera, ... Abu Jaafar says at least 85 people were killed ..."
https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/04/suspected-chemical-attack-kills-dozens-syria-douma-180407202906316.html

April 9, 11:55 PM
"Rescue workers and medical staff have said that the death toll from Syria’s chlorine chemical attack that struck the Damascus suburb of Douma at midnight on Saturday has risen to 85."
https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180409-death-toll-rises-to-85-in-syria-east-ghouta-chemical-attack/
April 8: "The Syrian Civil Defense group documented 42 fatalities ...The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights issued a higher death toll, saying at least 80 people were killed in Douma, including around 40 who died from suffocation. But it said the suffocations were the result of shelters collapsing on people inside them."
https://www.cbsnews.com/news/syria-chemical-weapon-attack-douma-leaves-dozens-dead-opposition-says-04-08-2018/

To the SOHR, there were no chemical deaths reported, from about 80 total dead. Strange. The VDC's martyrs database has 99 total Douma civilians killed on April 7, 85 from gas, just 14 from bombing. This number started smaller with hardly any identified, but grew and got more names over the following days. But with no further changes, this 85 might be their final number. 35 are listed as men, so 50 (most) are women and children, and 49 total remain unidentified) All 14 bombing deaths are unidentified, listed as men (which can also mean blank, no gender entered)
http://www.vdc-sy.info/index.php/en/martyrs/1/c29ydGJ5PWEua2lsbGVkX2RhdGV8c29ydGRpcj1ERVNDfGFwcHJvdmVkPXZpc2libGV8ZXh0cmFkaXNwbGF5PTB8c3RhdHVzPTF8dGhpc0RhdGU9MjAxOC0wNC0wN3wzPURvdW1hfA==

Recall first reports of 70 dead from bombing and none yet from chemicals but 11 choking (81 total), or SOHR's 80 total dead split half-and-half, with the chemical deaths just suffocation cases. The same basic number (80, 81, 85), gets divided up three different ways. Likely coincidence, but possibly a clue.

But three tallies from just 5-6 hours after the event already cited numbers over 100:
3:14 AM April 8: White Helmets say over 100 died: https://twitter.com/TRTWorldNow/status/982773649227767808
2:43 AM April 8: Anonymous hears 115+  https://twitter.com/YourAnonCentral/status/982765850141786112
2:12 am @LawkGhafuri
"Death toll reported to be more than 120 people and 100 others injured" (poss. 220 expected?)
https://twitter.com/LawkGhafuri/status/982758142323953664

Bigger yet and as early as any, but it was just an "estimate":
2:14 am: Zaher Sahloul, SAMS chief, already heard "Latest estimate of death ...is 180 mostly women and Children." No mention of an expected rise past that.
https://twitter.com/sahloul/status/982758520738205696
Also, he heard a helicopter took off at exactly 8:30 from Dirka 427 airfield to launch the sarin attack at 9pm, not 7:30 as others say, or 10:22 as others say. (note tweet is just 5 hours after the attack, by his time) 

A little later, 5:19 am in Syria:
https://twitter.com/saudiNew_s/status/982805218533441536
Civil defense in Douma: The high number of deaths of the regime's toxic gas shelling has risen to 150.

April 8 https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/syria-chemical-weapons-attack-latest-sarin-douma-eastern-ghouta-nerve-agent-chlorine-russia-us-uk-a8294741.html
SAMS and White Helmets agree at least 49 confirmed dead from the gas part. But Tawfik Chamaa, UOSSM "said 150 people were confirmed dead and the number was growing. “The majority were civilians, women and children trapped in underground shelters,” he said."

11:06 pm April 8 UOSSM predicts it will be "well over 100"
https://twitter.com/adpaw13/status/983073738727088128
8:08 pm in Syria @RamiSafadi93 tweets LCC: Death toll ... is at 190.
https://twitter.com/ RamiSafadi93/status/983028855077302273

5:13 PM April 8: "The death toll is still increasing After more families were found suffocated in their homes after yesterday’s chemical attack So far about 200 martyrs and more than a thousand injuries"  https://twitter.com/hadialbahra/status/982984896003100672

8:12 pm April 8, Al Bawab news: "Syrian activists announced the death toll from the bombing of the eastern city of Duma to more than 200 people. ... the bombardment included chemical gases such as sarin and nerve gas, not chlorine gas. ... the death toll is likely to rise significantly, and that civil defense teams are still pulling the bodies of the victims from the rubble."
http://www.albawabhnews.com/3039246

(these may be taking 180/190 and rounding it up, then turning "about" to "more than")

UOSSM April 9:
"42 people have been confirmed dead and hundreds affected by the chemical attack
*Earlier, UOSSM reported 70 confirmed dead, but due to conflicting reports, and difficulty gathering data we are confident that at least 42 are confirmed dead, those numbers are expected to rise."
symptoms: cyanosis, foaming of the mouth, cornea irritation, and the strong odor of a chlorine like substance.
https://www.uossm.us/42_confirmed_dead_in_massive_chemical_attack_in_ghouta?recruiter_id=659

SAMS Apr 9 7:38 pm in Syria
https://twitter.com/sams_usa/status/983383540992798721
"Updated death toll ...SAMS has verified 43 people killed in the attack, including 35 identified, and 8 unidentified."
(note: VDC has 36 identified, 49 not)

And After That...
April 11:
"The World Health Organization said on Wednesday around 500 people had been treated for “signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals” ... WHO also said that more than 70 people sheltering from bombardment in basements were reported to have died.
It said 43 of those deaths were “related to symptoms consistent with exposure to highly toxic chemicals,” citing reports from its local health partners.
Note: "more than 70" compares well with the variously split 80/81/85 tallies most commonly reached, here divided about half CW, half suffocation, but all basement-type cases and non-violent.
Symptoms: “In particular, there were signs of severe irritation of mucous membranes, respiratory failure and disruption to central nervous systems of those exposed,” it said in a statement issued in Geneva.
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-ghouta-who/who-500-syrian-patients-show-symptoms-pointing-to-toxic-weapons-exposure-idUSKBN1HI18D?il=0

April 20, Kyodo News "The total number of dead reached around 50, the residents said." (seeming to refer to a single site)
https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2018/04/f8e37dcb92f7-questions-over-gas-cylinder-remain-after-syria-attack.html

April 18 AP report: "More than 40 people were killed, many of them children, according to medics and opposition activists in the town." But they also "spoke of at least two buildings with people sheltering in the basements" who died. And the same story hears about one site where 46 died. The only site we've seen has 34-35 seen bodies. Is this the same site, with more than seen, or the other site?
http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/chlorine-chaos-death-syria-attack-54550403

(Independent 8 April)  "Basel Termanini, the US-based vice president of SAMS, said a further 35 people had been killed at a nearby apartment building, most of them women and children."
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/syria-chemical-weapons-attack-latest-sarin-douma-eastern-ghouta-nerve-agent-chlorine-russia-us-uk-a8294741.html
That shouldn't be the site with 46, but the one with about 35. Or they missed 11 bodies? Suggested total might be 35 + 46 = 81, or about what the VDC lists and others have reported, split-up different ways. Here' all basement-type cases, non-violent, and all CW deaths, no simple suffocation.

And still floating out there are the numerous prophecies of 100-150-180-200+ killed. It would be strange to produce the reminder as verified dead this late in the game, but it remains quite possible in this unusual case among such highly mysterious events.


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