'I do not want to lose my son'
Parents of 33-yr-old Russel Rebello have been doing all they can to get some definite answers about the whereabouts of their son, who was aboard an Italian liner when it sank off the Tuscan coast, but authorities haven't given them any
On Sunday morning, when Gladys and Frank Rebello flipped opened the papers at their Naigaon residence, they weren't expecting to read any piece of news that would concern them personally. But they learned that the Italian cruise liner Costa Concordia had hit a rock and sank off the Tuscan island of Giglio, Italy, late Friday night. Aboard the liner was their son, Russel Rebello (33). In the frenzy and agony of uncertainty that followed over the next two days, the Rebellos would learn that Russel is the only Indian missing from the 202 others aboard the ship.
Distraught: Russel's parents, Gladys and Frank, have asked their
neighbours to get a set top box for them so they can follow the news
related to the mishap on television channels. His wife, Wilma, was
constantly over the phone, checking for updates from Italy.
'I am hoping for a miracle, I want my son back, I do not want to lose my son," uttered Gladys (63), Russel's mother.
Since the news broke, hundreds of concerned relatives have been visiting the Rebello residence at Oasis Park, Naigaon (West), hoping to bring some solace to his aged parents, and his 29-year old wife, Wilma. Russel's father, Frank (69), has been paralysed for the last three years, and is bed-ridden. His son, Rhys, is three-and-a-half years old.
"I wish I could have gone to Italy to look for my son, but I am helpless. I can't leave his ailing father behind," said Gladys, her voice quivering with emotion.
For the last six years, Russel was working as a steward on the liner and had resumed duty after a vacation in October 2011. "He last spoke to us on January 6, wishing us for Christmas and New Year, as he could not call us then. He was to return in June and, after taking a break, would have resumed duty again," she said.
"We were sure that Russel was on the same cruise. So we went to the neighbours' house to watch the news on TV to get more details, but in vain. We have been worried sick about his whereabouts, desperately waiting to get some definite news," said Gladys.
Russel's kin are upset at the misleading information they were given by the Mumbai-based recruitment company M/s Air Borne Recruiting Pvt Ltd, which hired most of the Indian crewmembers that were aboard the liner.
"The recruiting company first told us that Russel was safe and had been admitted to a hospital. Later, they said that he was in a hotel," Gladys said. "When we relayed this information to Russel's elder brother Kevin (38), who is based in Milan, Italy, he rushed to the Tuskan Coast and rummaged all the hospitals and hotels, but could not find him."
"We were praying the whole night, hoping to get some positive news from Kevin. But he called on Monday afternoon to say that Russel was nowhere to be found and that the local officials were not cooperating," Gladys said. "None of the government officials, from Delhi or the Indian embassy in Italy, have contacted us till now. Even the recruiting company is tightlipped about the matter," Gladys said.
Michael D'costa (45), a close family friend and neighbour, said, "They were hopeful till Sunday, but after Kevin informed them of the uncooperative local authorities, they have lost all hope. The mother has requested us to buy a new set top box for them so that they are able to get the latest updates on the news channels."
D'costa added, "I know Russel since he was a kid. He is a great sport and good at academics. He always wanted to join the cruise."
Speaking to MiD DAY, one of Russel's ex-colleagues at a five-star hotel, said, "Russel is a very dedicated and fun-loving guy. The news that he is the only person missing from the Indian crew aboard Costa Concordia has shocked me. I will pray that Russel returns home safely."
Vikram Pinto (39), Russel's brother-in-law, managed to speak to the Indian Embassy's first secretary Vishwesh Negi who is currently at the spot. Negi informed him that the rescue operation had to be called off as the sea was rough, and that they would resume the operation soon.
Russel's roommate Sydney told Pinto on Monday that on the fateful evening, Russel had been unwell for quite some days. He was down with cold, and was resting in his cabin on the lower deck when the rock hit close to his cabin, and water started gushing in.
Sydney also told Pinto that he and Russel shifted to the upper deck and were helping the passengers put on life jackets, but in the panic and commotion, people started pushing each other, and Russel got separated from him. The cruise was to take more passengers from Italy and was to head to France.
Pinto added that the family had got the confirmation from the Indian High Commission in Italy that the only missing Indian aboard the ship was Russel.
He added that the 202 rescued Indian crewmembers will be taken to Rome on Tuesday, where they will be given temporary travel documents and money for returning to India.
Officials at the Fort-based office of Air Borne Recruiting who did not wish to be quoted said that they were coordinating with the DG (Shipping) and were in the process of verifying the media reports about Russel being the only missing Indian crewmember.
A high-level meeting was held at the DGS office, but officials refused to comment.
External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said, "All of them (Indian crewmembers) have been rescued. Only one Indian crewmember Rebello Russel Terrance is missing and has not been traced yet," he told reporters.
Krishna added, "We have directed our Ambassador in Italy to visit the spot of the tragedy... He is on his way there. The Ambassador has already deputed two officials to assist Italian authorities to trace him..We will share further information as and when we get it."
Vasai crewmember escapes death
Alister Nunes (25) -- one of the crewmembers on board the luxury cruise ship -- has escaped miraculously from the wreck. After a nail-biting wait, Alister's father Hillary Nunes finally spoke to his beloved son on Saturday afternoon. "We were at a function on Friday night. After coming home, we saw on TV that a ship had sunk in Italy. We were petrified when we discovered that the ship was the Costa Concordia. Our son was on that ship.
We finally heard from him on Saturday afternoon. Alister said that after being rescued, he and some other survivors had been accommodated in a church for a while. It was overwhelming to hear his voice. I can't describe the feeling," said Hillary, a retired BMC official. The Nunes family expressed its gratitude for Meetal, Alister's friend, who was the first one to inform them that their son was safe.
After going through the traumatic ordeal, Alister forgot his parents' mobile number, but managed to recall his friend's number. Alister phoned his friend Meetal, a Vasai resident, and requested her to inform his parents that he has been rescued and was safe in Italy.
Meetal met Alister's parents in Vasai and informed them that their son was safe. Leela Perira, Alister's god mother, said, "Alister always wanted to make it big. He used to work for a five-star hotel earlier, but wasn't happy with his job. To earn more, he decided to take up a job on a cruise ship."
Hillary recalled, "My son left Mumbai on September 14. He joined a ship called Romantica on September 16. But the ship had to go for some repairs. He was then transferred to the Costa Concordia."
Harish Suvarna, principal of the Anjuman Islam College of Hotel Management from where Alister graduated, said, "I was shocked to learn that my student was in that cruise. He was a good student. I am glad that he is safe."