MADIKERI: Gilbert Mendoca (54) has been missing since August 16. His family members fear that he is dead. “Today (August 25) is his birthday. While all hopes of him being alive are dead, I at least want to see his body for the last time,” says a tearful Reeta Mendoca, Gilbert’s wife.
On August 16, Gilbert’s family including his wife Reeta, sons Akshay, Ajay and brother Boutis Mendoza and his wife were at their house in Katakeri. The family, which owns eight acres of coffee estate, were diverting the flood water from their estate when around 3.30 pm, Boutis’ house collapsed partially. The family went to his house to check for the cause and they observed a minor landslide.
Immediately, Gilbert instructed his son Akshay to take the cattle out to a safer spot, when they all heard a loud sound. “We saw a tree uproot itself and roll down the hill. Along with it came loads of mud. My aunt (Boutis’ wife), my grandmother and my mother were buried under heaps of mud. I heard them scream. Leaving the cattle in a nearby house, I went to rescue them,” recalls Akshay, Gilbert’s son.
The three were rescued by Akshay and they fled to another house, which is located a few feet away from the landslide. “I never saw where my father went,” Akshay says. “After I was rescued, I ran towards the house (located a few feet away from the landslide) and I dropped unconscious,” recalls Reeta.
Over a week after the disaster, the family is still desperately searching for a trace of Gilbert. The search operation began on August 24. While the Garuda Rescue Team drew a blank, on August 25, a 30-member NDRF team from Uttar Pradesh began the search under the command of Subreesh. Since the sludge is nearly five-foot deep, the search operation is carried with the help of earthmovers.
“This operation requires machine power more than manpower,” an NDRF team member said. With support from locals and NDRF, the family, which has lost its house and 5 acres of the estate, is hoping to find a trace of Gilbert.