Image: Firefighters search university dorm
Pier Paolo Cito  /  AP
A student looks at firefighters searching a university dorm in L'Aquila, Italy, on Tuesday. A young couple were later found dead in the rubble.
updated 4/7/2009 6:58:11 PM ET 2009-04-07T22:58:11

They died in each other's arms.

Francesco Esposito and his fiancee Angela, an engineering student, were dug from the rubble of L'Aquila's student dormitory Tuesday, a day after Italy's worst earthquake in three decades struck this central mountainous region, devastating the city of 70,000.

Esposito's stunned aunts said the 24-year-old didn't normally sleep in the dorm. He had gone there Sunday night, though, to comfort 23-year-old Angela — they were too distraught to remember her surname. She had been frightened by several smaller earthquakes that had preceded the 6.3-magnitude temblor that partially collapsed the building, they said.

"Francesco doesn't exist anymore," wailed his aunt, Antonella Cappanolo, 53, pressing her hand to her forehead. "Our homes can be rebuilt but we will never see him again."

Another aunt, 59-year-old Ida Calente, appeared more stoic. "I still can't believe it."

The two women spoke from a large parking lot in L'Aquila where they sought safety. Their homes were badly damaged, and authorities won't let them return anyway. They planned to leave Wednesday for the Adriatic coast, where hotel rooms have been offered to survivors.

Calente said the family was told by emergency officials earlier in the day that the bodies of the couple were found in an embrace, crushed under the weight of the collapsed building. Officials believe they died instantly.

Esposito worked as a doorman at the dorm where Angela lived. They planned to marry and were about to travel to her home in southern Italy to meet her parents for the first time.

"They died in each other's arms," Calente said.

A sister of Angela's who lived with her in the dorm survived.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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