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November 17, 2010

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Relatives of missing in limbo

FAMILIES have been left in limbo between hope and grief as they desperately try to discover what has happened to relatives missing since Monday's fire.

"It's not the time to cry," said Shen Guoqiang, comforting his weeping wife who had almost collapsed.

Days before, the couple had flown to Shanghai to celebrate Shen's brother's birthday; now they were looking for any clue on his whereabouts.

In a school near the gutted residential building in the city's Jing'an District, at least 36 families, like Shen's, were frantically trying to find any scrap of information on their relatives.

Distraught relatives visited the city's hospitals and a funeral parlour seeking any trace of their loved ones.

Liu Yufen spent yesterday morning searching for her 57-year-old brother and his wife, who have not in contact since the fire. The couple lived on the 22nd floor.

Liu said some badly burned bodies in the funeral parlor "were hard to distinguish."

At the school, families found some solace among others in the same situation. Some women leaned their heads on relatives, crying.

As time passed, grief gave way to frustration.

"You tell me how can I get information about my mother," a man with reddened eyes shouted at community officials and volunteers.

"Don't brush me off," said the man, "Your mother was not caught in the fire." He was ushered away by family members.

The sorrow has been shared by neighbors who witnessed the tragedy.

Gao Darong, 71, a retired teacher living next to the building, saw some of his ex-colleagues' names on the injured lists.

"I have mixed feelings," he said. "I am relieved because they survived but on the other hand they have lost their homes."

For Max Chinois from France, who had rented an apartment in the building for the past five months, the priority is to get money for clothes. He lost almost everything he owned in the fire.

By noon, the district government has arranged several buses to take relatives to the city's Longhua Funeral Parlor where bodies recovered from the blaze were taken.

Police officers gave pictures of the dead and of people in comas for relatives to identify.

Some families still hold the hope that their loved ones will show up or be found in hospital.

However, hope gave way to grief as some bodies were finally identified. Next to their names on a list in the school, was written simply: "Found in Longhua."


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