'100 days later, I have nothing for my mom'
It's been over 3 months since Russel Rebello went missing after Costa Concordia sank off the Italian coast; his brother Kevin returned home yesterday � broke, heartbroken and unable to face his mother.
“Hundred days later, I have nothing for my mother,” said an emotional Kevin Rebello, speaking to MiD DAY hours after he landed at Mumbai international airport on Monday afternoon. “It was a very difficult moment for me to face my mother Gladys Rebello (63), who kept hoping for a miracle until now. She had asked me to return to India with Russel, but on spotting me alone at the door she could not control her emotions and kept crying, holding me hard. I had to rein in my tears, I could not even express my emotions to her,” said Kevin.
He added, “It is unfortunate, that I am returning home after seven years and could not even get gifts for my parents and loved ones. Nor could I get the smile back on their face. All I have carried with me is a bunch of papers (documents) that I have collected in the last 100 days corresponding with various agencies and authorities in Italy about my missing brother.”
Kevin even lost his job with a French brand marketing company in Milan, Italy where he worked for the last two years and was drawing approximate 2000 euros a month. On January 13, after the Italian Cruise liner Costa Concordia hit a rock and sank off the Tuscan Coast, Italy, Kevin had left Milan in search of his brother.
It being the weekend, he could not officially inform his office and as per the company’s procedures, since he was not able to report to work for 90 days after the mishap, his computer-generated contract came to an end, without any payment. “Luckily, I could still keep my rented apartment in Milan, after clearing the pending dues, before leaving for Mumbai,” he said. “I have to start everything from scratch. I have to prioritise things in my life again and need to do everything possible for my parents and Russel’s family,” Kevin said.
“I was hopeful until last Monday (April 16), that the DNA examination would at least confirm that one of the bodies could have been of Russel. But the forensic experts from Rome, who had conducted a series of DNA tests to arrive at the 70 per cent plus accuracy, concluded that the bodies were of Giuseppe Gerolamo (Italian crewmember), American couple Gerald and Barbara Heil, and German couple Ganz Norbert Josef and Ganz Christina Mathi. The two missing till now are Russel and Italian passenger Maria Grazia Trecarichi (50),” he added.
Kevin suspects that Russel might have attempted to save the woman and something happened thereafter. “I have the entire sequence of events from 8.45 pm to 12.15 am, narrated to me by survivors on-board that fateful night, when Russel was last spotted. But I am unable to get any details between 12.15 am to 12.30 am, when the ship actually started sinking and even Russel went missing soon after,” he said.
Kevin added, “I had to cancel my plans to return to India twice earlier, as the search operators would find some bodies at those very moments. This time, I had hoped they would either identify the body through DNA, or would succeed in tracing the two missing people. But is was all in vain and I flew to India empty-handed.”
Lack of support
On Saturday evening, hours before he left for India, Kevin wrote an extensive email to the Indian High Commission in Italy, mentioning his grievances. He submitted that during the entire episode of emotional ups and downs in his personal life, he was all alone near the coast, hoping for a miracle, as the Indian embassy officials did not stand by him for long.
Also the Indian Embassy representatives, who showed their concern initially, suddenly became too busy sorting out tensions between India and Italy post the arrest of two Italian soldiers in Kerala after the alleged murder of some fishermen. “There were protests and rallies in Italy against the arrest. But in our case, Russel, an Indian, is missing for the last 100 days, and still nobody is bothered. I want to ask the authorities in Delhi, would their attitude have been the same, had all the 200 crewmembers on-board been Indian nationals?” asked an emotional Kevin.
He added that he would be in constant touch with Italian authorities during his stay in Mumbai to know about the latest updates. According to Kevin, the Costa company has deposited the salary of Russel in his bank account, as promised to all the crewmembers after the mishap. As per the policy, Italian authorities won’t officially declare Russel missing until the next four years, and only then issues of further compensation will be taken up for discussion. “However, at this moment I want to be with my parents and spend some time with them. They require my support,” said Kevin.
When tragedy struck
On January 13, 2012, at 21:45 local time, Costa Concordia hit a rock off Isola del Giglio. A 50-metre long gash was made in the hull. Taking on water, and pushed by winds laterally, the ship drifted back and grounded near shore, then partly capsized onto her starboard side, in an unsteady position on a rocky underwater ledge. Almost half of the ship remained above water, but it was in danger of sinking completely into a trough 70 metres deep. The cruise liner was carrying 3,229 passengers and 1,023 crewmembers, all but 34 of whom were rescued. 32 bodies were found, with two people known to be missing. Authorities say there may have been other people not listed on board. The search for bodies was abandoned at the end of January.