For rescuers it was a glimmer of hope in what was otherwise another day of horror. Firefighters pulled a 20-year-old woman alive from the ruins of a five-storey building 42 hours after it collapsed.
The survivor, Eleonora Calesini, was conscious and speaking to the rescuers who extricated her from the rubble as aftershocks brought down chunks of masonry from crumbling buildings in the historic medieval centre of L'Aquila. Firefighters had laboured for hours to free her, painstakingly negotiating a way around precariously balanced lumps of concrete.
Earlier, 23 hours after her home was demolished by the earthquake, Marta Valente, a 24-year-old student, was also pulled out alive and unharmed. Clutching a blanket, her face blanched and with tears in her eyes, she emerged strapped to a stretcher. She had been saved thanks to a concrete beam that fell from the ceiling in such a way as to protect her from the rest of the building.
"It was a very, very delicate rescue," said one of the workers involved in the extraction. "There were beams that were a danger very close by, and we had to take care not to trigger a collapse as we tried to free her legs."
The rescuers said they had had to dismantle part of the student's bed before they were able to ease her out of the rubble.
Ms Valente apparently owed her life to another student, who was identified as Matteo, aged 22. He had been pulled from the rubble of the same building hours earlier and told his rescuers that there was another person trapped and calling for help – he indicated to them roughly where to find her.
Applause broke out when Ms Valente was finally freed about 2am. She was taken to hospital and doctors said they were confident she would make a full recovery.
The other success stories of yesterday concerned two 98-year-old women. Remarkably, Monday's earthquake was the second that Ines D'Alessandro had survived, the first being in 1915, according to the Italian news agency, Ansa.
The second nonogenarian, Maria D'Antuomo, from the village of Tempera, said she had passed the time crocheting until she was found about 30 hours after the quake struck. The first things she asked for, once rescued, were biscuits to eat and a comb for her hair. But these were rare glimmers of hope in a pile of bitter tragedies amid the dust and debris of the Abruzzo region. Hours earlier in L'Aquila, two bodies were recovered from a partially-collapsed student residence.
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