With Costa Concordia righted, most of Italy moves on

The Costa Concordia drama is finally over for most, but relatives of those whose bodies were never recovered are still waiting.

Tony Gentile/Reuters
The cruise liner Costa Concordia is seen after its successful raising outside Giglio harbour Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013.

Just a day after the successful raising of the Costa Concordia cruise ship, life was regaining some degree of normalcy on the tiny Italian island of Giglio.

As boats and barges fussed around the battered hull of the liner, which was raised in a dramatic 19-hour operation, locals took advantage of the warm autumn sunshine. On the tiny sand beach that lies directly opposite the wreck, grandmothers in roomy swimming costumes sunbathed while their grandchildren dug holes and built sandcastles.

A few yards away, on the quayside, a tanned fisherman with a gold earring pulled up a large octopus from the water. Its tentacles wrapped around his forearm as he killed it with a knife. “This is lunch,” he said, holding up the glistening, mottled body.

Just 24 hours previously, the breakwater from where he dangled his line was crammed with television crews from around the world, with the Concordia providing a dramatic backdrop for correspondents as it was raised inch by painstaking inch.

Now, all but a handful have gone, as the media circus moves on and engineers embark on many months of work to prepare the Costa Concordia to be towed away to an Italian port and broken up for scrap.

The salvage experts need to ensure that the 950 foot-long ship, which has been crumpled and smashed all along its starboard side, is safe enough for divers and police to enter.

Amid the slime-covered cabins and corridors of the vessel, they will have a grim task, searching for the remains of two of the 32 victims whose bodies were never recovered – Russel Rebello, a waiter from India, and Maria Grazia Trecarichi, a passenger from Sicily.

Relatives of the two victims have arrived on the island and now face an agonizing wait for news. It could take days before authorities receive permission to board the ship.

“We hope they can start work very soon,” says Russel Rebello’s brother Kevin, who spoke from behind the palm-shaded beach that faces the ship. “When they find the remains, my main priority will be to take him home and give him a decent burial. At least we will have a tomb to cry on.” The Rebello family members are Catholics, of Goan origin, and now live in Mumbai.

Stefania Vincenzi, the daughter of Mrs. Trecarichi, also kept watch over the wreck, which lies just a few hundred yards from Giglio’s port.

They were both on the cruise ship on the night of the disaster. Ms. Vincenzi survived with the help of her boyfriend, but her mother rushed down to her cabin to fetch a jacket to ward off the winter cold, as thousands of terrified passengers and crew tried to evacuate, and was never seen again.

“The last year and a half have been very hard for me, without doubt,” says the teenager, who is a contestant in this year’s Miss Italy contest. “I hope they will be able to find my mother’s body.”

She said she had decided to enter the beauty pageant as a tribute to her mother, who had said she would give her blessing once her daughter turned 18. The dark-haired teenager was ferried out to the wreck of the ship in an Italian coast guard boat with her father, Elio Vincenzi, and Kevin Rebello.

There they scattered white flowers on the sea, as the sun shone from a cloudless sky.

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