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Kurds In Europe, New York For Treatment Of Apparent Gas Wounds

March 30, 1988

LONDON (AP) _ More than two dozen Kurds burned on their faces, backs and hands from reported Iraqi poison gas attacks that killed 5,000 were flown to four European countries and the United States on Tuesday for treatment.

Some coughed violently, others lay motionless on stretchers as they were taken from an Iran Air ambulance plane that touched down in Austria, Switzerland, West Germany and Britain.

One 6-year-old child, said by Iranian and Kurdish officials to have lost her entire family in an attack, sobbed constantly and called for her parents. At least four other children were among the wounded.

The plane, dropping off six patients each in Vienna, Geneva, Frankfurt and London, arrived in New York later Tuesday with five wounded. The man, woman and three girls were taken to St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Queens, where they were admitted in stable condition, hospital spokesman Jim Wellen said.

He said they suffered from skin and eye wounds, burns and inhalation injuries.

Swiss Red Cross President Felix Christ said the Iranian goverment was paying for the medical treatment.

Iran said the Iraqi air force dropped cyanide and mustard gas bombs on three Kurdish towns in Iraq, killing 5,000 Kurds and injuring 5,000 other people. The attacks first targeted the town of Halabja, which had been captured by Iran, on March 16. Some chemical bombs reportedly hit the nearby villages of Khormal and Dojaila during the next few days. Most victims were in Halabja.

Dr. Gerhard Freilinger, department head of Vienna’s University Clinic for plastic surgery, said the patients he talked to appeared to have been injured by mustard gas that may have been mixed with a nerve gas.

It was possible the mustard gas was ″in combination with a light nerve gas, because they all have bad headaches, are dizzy and (some) may have been unconscious,″ he told reporters in Vienna.

Mustard gas causes changes in the lungs that can lead to suffocation, burns the skin and also destroys bone marrow, Freilinger said.

The gas is heavier than air, which he said would explain how it seeped into cellars where the patients said they had been hiding during the attacks.

Freilinger said poison gas penetrates everything, including clothes.

″They can’t run away from it because if they do, they breath it in even deeper,″ he said.

In the past, Iran has sent soldiers allegedly poisoned by mustard gas to Vienna and other European cities for treatment. In July, Iranian civilians were sent for treatment for the first time.

Since 1984, Freilinger has treated about 30 victims of alleged chemical weapons attacks in the 7 1/2 -year-old Persian Gulf war. He said about half of them had survived, but the latest victims were injured nearly two weeks ago, meaning the damage done by the gas could not be reversed.

Freilinger said he visited areas allegedly bombed with chemical weapons in 1984 and had taken a sample of the gas for verification and testing.

He said two of the patients, a child and a severely wounded Iranian soldier, were to be placed in the intensive care unit at his university clinic.

Three women and a man were brought to private clinics in the Austrian capital.

In Geneva, three children aged between six and 11 were driven by ambulance to the Lausanne University Hospital and two men and a woman were flown on to Zurich and taken to the city’s University Hospital.

A Swiss Foreign Ministry spokesman said the six were granted visas for Switzerland for humanitarian reasons. In 1985, five Iranian soldiers allegedly wounded by Iraqi chemical weapons were treated in Zurich and Lausanne. The following year, six more were treated in Lausanne and in Liestal near Basel and two died.

Five men and a 6-year-old girl were taken to Recklinghausen, 125 miles north of Frankfurt. Scores of Iranians injured in the war have been flown in recent years to the West German town, which has several clinics that specialize in respiratory ailments.

About 70 Iranian protesters waving placards and photographs of civilians allegedly burned by chemical gas gathered at London’s Heathrow Airport. Three male and three female patients were due to be taken from the converted jumbo jet to Cromwell Hospital.

Update hourly