The death toll from the suspected chemical attack on a northern Syrian town rose to 72 on Wednesday as activists and rescue workers found more terrified survivors hiding in shelters near the site of the harrowing assault, one of the deadliest in Syria’s civil war.
According to a Syrian opposition group, renewed airstrikes hit the town of Khan Sheikhoun a day after the attack that the Trump administration has blamed on the government of President Bashar Assad, saying that his patrons, Russia and Iran, bore “great moral responsibility” for the deaths.
The Damascus and Moscow governments denied they were behind the attack.
The U.N. Security Council was to hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday in response to the strike and in Brussels, officials from 70 nations gathered for a major donors’ conference on the future of Syria and the region.
The attack on Khan Sheikhoun killed dozens of people on Tuesday, leaving residents gasping for breath and convulsing in the streets and overcrowded hospitals. Videos from the scene showed volunteer medics using fire hoses to wash the chemicals from victims’ bodies. Haunting images of lifeless children piled in heaps reflected the magnitude of the attack, which was reminiscent of a 2013 chemical assault that left hundreds dead and was the worst in the country’s ruinous six-year conflict.
Syrian doctors said a combination of toxic gases is suspected to have been released during the airstrikes, causing the high death toll and severe symptoms.
The World Health Organization said victims of the attack appear to show symptoms consistent with exposure to a nerve agent.
In a statement, the agency said “the likelihood of exposure to a chemical attack is amplified by an apparent lack of external injuries reported in cases showing a rapid onset of similar symptoms, including acute respiratory distress as the main cause of death.”