As the death toll in Sunday's earthquake rose toward 5,000, President Sandro Pertini bitterly criticized the government's relief efforts today, and the interior minister promptly resigned.
After Pertini went on national television to castigate the "serious failures" of emergency aid, Interior Minister Virginio Rognoni submitted his resignation to Premier Arnaldo Forlani to "remove from the government tensions that could end up making difficult . . . the absolutely necessary action."
Rognoni's ministry, responsible for rescue efforts, said the official toll stood at 3,100 confirmed dead and at least 2,000 more missing and presumed dead. Another 5,000 are listed as injured and more than 200,000 homeless. More homes were damaged in tremors today.
With criticism mounting of official response to the disaster, the Cabinet preceded the resignation of Rognoni with the announcement of a $1.3 billion emergency relief program designed to provide every family that lost its breadwinner with an immediate grant of $11,000.
Pertini, who returned to Rome last night from a tour of the southern region, said: "There have been serious failures. There is no doubt about that. Whoever is responsible has to be charged. The first-aid relief that was supposed to be there was not."
The president signed the aid measures into effect as an immediate decree only minutes after the eight-hour Cabinet meeting ended and then went on television to give Italians an emotional picture of the catastrophe.
The 84-year-old president said that during his two-day visit to the devastated area, "I was surrounded by inhabitants who showed me their despair and pain, but also their rage. After 48 hours, the needed aid had not yet arrived in those villages.
"In 1970, parliament voted laws on natural calamities. I now discover they have never been put into effect," he said. He referred to a scandal following a quake in Sicily when government aid disappeared into the pockets of speculators. Preventive legislation followed, but Pertini asked why regional disaster centers had failed to function.
Today's aid measures were the first united Cabinet response to the disaster. Half the money will be used to give the homeless shelter, while the rest is for restoration of essential services and the individual grants, the Cabinet said.
Special relief commissioner Giuseppe Zamberletti was given overriding powers to requisition houses or to buy mobil homes and prefabricated buildings for those who lost their homes.
Italy's three major labor confederations agreed with employers that their members would give four hours' pay Saturday to the earthquake victims.
People were still being rescued alive from under tons of rubble more than 60 hours after the earthquake, and recuers reported hearing the cries of many other trapped victims.
Among people found alive today were awoman and two children, pulled out of rubble in the hill town of Sant' Angelo dei Lombardi, which was almost completely destroyed. For every survivor, however, they found dozens of mutilated bodies.
In the village of Castelnuovo di Conza, a youth whose leg was pinned under a heavy beam gazed helplessly at rescuers who have been trying to free him for three days.
"It is impossible to move him," said Mayor Alberto Venutolo, who is a doctor. "Yesterday I thought of amputating his leg with an electric saw, but there wasn't room to do it.
"No help has reached us apart from six tents. Village lads and a few old people are doing the digging. There are no policemen -- one died of a heart attack a month ago, and the other is under the rubble."
Dr. Venutolo said an Army truck arrived yesterday with five corpses from a nearby village whose cemetery was destroyed.
"The officer wanted to bury them in our cemetery, but the villagers said no, we have enough trouble burying our own dead. So the officer went off saying he would have to dump the bodies somewhere in the country," the mayor said.
In Avellino, crowds surrounded two trucks carrying mineral water and blankets and stripped them bare in minutes, according to police.
"It isn't so much the fault of these desperate people," one police officer said. "It's really to do with the way essential things are distributed and especially the slowness of them arriving."
The Interior Ministry announced that the prefect of Avellino, Attilio Lobefalo, had been removed from his post. The criticism of the slow start of rescue operations had focused on that city and province, one of the worst-hit areas.
Pope John Paul II, who toured the worst-hit areas yesterday, appealed for more moral and material help. "What is needed now is solidarity of all Christians throughout the world," he said.
The United States has announced a relief contribution of $1.5 million and said rescue teams were being sent. Sen. Claiborne Pell (D-R.I.) arrived to help coordinate U.S. aid efforts.