Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that closing the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, is under review after numerous diplomats have suffered health problems due to possible sonic attacks. From The Associated Press:

“We have it under evaluation,” Tillerson said of a possible embassy closure. “It’s a very serious issue with respect to the harm that certain individuals have suffered. We’ve brought some of those people home. It’s under review.”

Symptoms

The number of affected diplomats has gone up to 21. Last week, The Associated Press released an article that provided details from some of those diplomats about the health problems they have now:

The blaring, grinding noise jolted the American diplomat from his bed in a Havana hotel. He moved just a few feet, and there was silence. He climbed back into bed. Inexplicably, the agonizing sound hit him again. It was as if he’d walked through some invisible wall cutting straight through his room.

Soon came the hearing loss, and the speech problems, symptoms both similar and altogether different from others among at least 21 US victims in an astonishing international mystery still unfolding in Cuba. The top US diplomat has called them “health attacks”.

To make it worse, people have had different symptoms and recollections over what happened. Some affected “now have problems concentrating or recalling specific words.” The AP continued:

In several episodes recounted by US officials, victims knew it was happening in real time, and there were strong indications of a sonic attack.

Some felt vibrations, and heard sounds – loud ringing or a high-pitch chirping similar to crickets or cicadas. Others heard the grinding noise. Some victims awoke with ringing in their ears and fumbled for their alarm clocks, only to discover the ringing stopped when they moved away from their beds.

The attacks seemed to come at night. Several victims reported they came in minute-long bursts.

Yet others heard nothing, felt nothing. Later, their symptoms came.
The scope keeps widening. On Tuesday, the state department disclosed that doctors had confirmed another two cases, bringing the total American victims to 21. Some have mild traumatic brain injury, known as a concussion, and others permanent hearing loss.

The AP said other symptoms have been “brain swelling, dizziness, nausea, severe headaches, balance problems and tinnitus, or prolonged ringing in the ears.” Almost all diplomats have felt better once they returned to the states.

Cause?

No one has any idea what is going on or what could be causing these problems. The details have shown that “at least some of the incidents were confined to specific rooms or even parts of rooms with laser-like specificity, baffling US officials who say the facts and the physics don’t add up.”

Authorities at first thought it was a sonic weapon, but the “diagnosis of mild brain injury, considered unlikely to result from sound,” has confused government agencies. From the AP:

Sound and health experts are equally baffled. Targeted, localized beams of sound are possible, but the laws of acoustics suggest such a device would probably be large and not easily concealed. Officials said it’s unclear whether the device’s effects were localized by design or due to some other technical factor.

And no single, sonic gadget seems to explain such an odd, inconsistent array of physical responses.

“Brain damage and concussions, it’s not possible,” said Joseph Pompei, a former MIT researcher and psychoacoustics expert. “Somebody would have to submerge their head into a pool lined with very powerful ultrasound transducers.”