Skip to main content

'Innocence' survives 11 hours under bomb rubble in Syria

By Ben Brumfield and Amir Ahmed, CNN
updated 6:05 PM EST, Sat January 19, 2013
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.

Homes, people bombed in Syria
What happened in Homs?
Report ties Syrian rebels to al Qaeda
The struggles for Syrian Kurds

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.

Syria's 'urban refugees' struggle for survival

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.

The gruesome toll of deadly cluster bombs in Syria

"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.

Inside Syria: 'Is there a worse way to live than this?'

CNN's Hamdi Alkhshali contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Syrian crisis
updated 10:48 AM EDT, Tue September 9, 2014
As a 10-year-old, this boy first hit the headlines in 1982 when he saved his cat from a fire. This year, he was reported to be a suicide bomber.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Fri September 5, 2014
Aqsa Mahmood,19, would listen to Coldplay and read Harry Potter books. Then this Glasgow girl became an ISIS bride.
updated 4:23 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
The little boy looks barely old enough to walk, let alone understand the dark world he's now inhabiting.
updated 12:22 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
ISIS has released video of the aftermath of a mass execution. Another video shows alleged captured Peshmerga soldiers.
updated 5:33 AM EDT, Sat August 30, 2014
The number of people who have fled Syria and registered as refugees amid the country's civil war will surpass 3 million Friday.
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Douglas McAuthur McCain, 33, grew up in the Minneapolis area, but died more than 6,000 miles away in Syria, fighting for ISIS.
updated 4:54 PM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
If the United States is serious about thoroughly defeating ISIS, it must, somehow, go through Syria.
updated 8:43 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Jihadists have kidnapped over 140 Kurdish boys to "brainwash" them. But a few boys made a daring escape.
updated 8:48 AM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
Reports that Syrian warplanes carried out a cross-border attack on Iraqi towns is further evidence of the blurring of the two countries' borders.
updated 5:33 PM EDT, Tue June 24, 2014
CNN's Atika Shubert speaks to a father whose teenage son joined the Jihad movement in Syria.
updated 7:41 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
At the start of Syria's civil unrest, Omar would rally against the government alongside his schoolmates, later taking to the streets in his hometown of Salqin.
updated 5:17 PM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
Atika Shubert looks at the rise of European jihadists traveling to Syria and whether they soon could join ISIS in Iraq.
updated 10:53 AM EDT, Mon June 23, 2014
The final stockpile of Syria's chemical weapons has been shipped out of the country, according to the OPCW, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
updated 4:25 PM EDT, Wed June 25, 2014
The US isn't doing airstrikes in Iraq. Is there a vacuum for Syria and Iran to step in? CNN's Fareed Zakaria weighs in.
updated 4:04 AM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reports on Syrian rebels using underground explosions against the better-equipped regime.
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Mon June 9, 2014
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh returns to the besieged rebel areas of Aleppo, a pale skeleton of a city that has had the life bombed out of it.
updated 7:51 AM EDT, Mon June 2, 2014
Syria may be embroiled in a brutal three-year civil war, but that's not stopping the government from holding presidential elections.
updated 7:23 AM EDT, Tue June 3, 2014
CNN's Nick Paton Walsh meets an ISIS defector in hiding and gets a rare look into the group's recruitment process.
updated 12:10 PM EDT, Thu June 5, 2014
Over a thousand Syrian refugees have turned an abandoned shopping mall in Lebanon into makeshift living quarters.
updated 2:15 PM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
More than 100,000 people reportedly have been killed in Syria since a popular uprising in 2011 spiraled into a civil war.
ADVERTISEMENT