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'Innocence' survives 11 hours under bomb rubble in Syria

By Ben Brumfield and Amir Ahmed, CNN
January 19, 2013 -- Updated 2305 GMT (0705 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A girl and her mother hide in a basement during days of bombardment
  • Daraya, Syria, is home to government ministries and an important military airport
  • Rebels and Bashar al-Assad's forces are fighting a bitter battle for control of the town
  • A bomb hits the girl's building, then everything goes black

(CNN) -- "Innocence" lay for 11 hours in the rubble of a building flattened by an aerial bombing Saturday until neighbors dug her out alive.

"What's your name?" a medic asked the teenager while sitting her up straight on the gurney of an underground rebel hospital. It was a miracle that she suffered only some scrapes, bruises, a bloody nose and a broken arm.

She was wide awake and talkative. "Baraa," she answered. In Arabic, her name means "Innocence."

Baraa and her mother lived near the National Hospital in Daraya, barely south of Damascus. The town, home to government ministries and a key military airport, is the scene of bitter fighting between rebel and government forces.

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Opposition fighters have dug in deep there with a system of foxholes, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's military has for weeks tried to smoke them out.

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Baraa said she and her mother heard that al-Assad's forces were advancing and wanted to flee but changed their minds and hid in the basement of a building in town.

"Some people told us that the structure of the building was not that strong," she told the medics in a video posted by opposition activists to YouTube. "But we stayed there for three days."

Rockets hammered the area every day, and Baraa learned that one of her neighbors had died. Then she heard a warplane soaring overhead. The rebels don't have that kind of military hardware -- captured tanks at best.

Bombs thundered down nearby. Then all went black.

"The plane threw a barrel bomb on us," she said. "The last thing I saw was a red flash like fire. After that, it was complete darkness."

She lay in the basement, buried alive in the building's rubble.

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"How were you breathing?" someone asked.

"I was hardly breathing," Baraa answered after a medic thoroughly scrubbed debris and blood from her mouth and nose.

"How many (people) were in the basement with you?"

"30."

Children?

"About 14," Baraa said. "The oldest was 11."

"Did you have any siblings among them?"

"Yes, three siblings: one 11 years old, the second was 9, and the third was 2½ years old."

All three died in that basement, she said. Twenty-eight people perished in all, according to Baraa.

But Baraa is luckily not alone. Her mother survived, too.

By day's end Saturday, 136 people had died in Syria, according to the Local Coordination Committees of Syria, an opposition network. CNN could not independently verify the group's claim that 47 died in Damascus and its suburbs.

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CNN's Hamdi Alkhshali contributed to this report.

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