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In tears and agony, anxious families look for relatives missing in Urumqi riot
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08:37, July 10, 2009

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They sobbed, they cried, loud and clear. They gazed at a spot of the floor for a long time, with sorrowful faces and eyes swelling with tears.

They, in groups, followed one and another on Thursday into a room on the 13th floor of Hotel World Plaza, choosing forms to register: dead or missing.

If you call that lucky, some people just filled forms to declare their damage of property in the deadly riot, which took place on Sunday evening in Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

The riot has left at least 156 dead and more than 1,000 others injured.

Holding a death certificate of his brother Yu Hai, attested by Urumqi City Public Security Bureau, 29-year-old Yu Lin sat quietly but mournfully in a chair with his grieved wife Tong Yahui.

When approached and asked by Xinhua reporters, Yu and his wife Tong suddenly broke into tears.

"My brother was killed (in the riot), this had been confirmed by police photos and DNA testing," Tong cried out immediately at her first words, and then choked with sobs.

Yu, his eyes also reddened, continued to narrate his brother's story in the room which serves as the office to handle the aftermath of the riot.

"I called my brother Yu Hai at around 9:30 p.m. Sunday when the violence broke out," said Yu the junior. "The phone call was answered by a policeman and he said my brother might be caught in the middle of the riot, and he told me to rush to the People's Hospital."

"I walked all my way to the hospital from the South Gate as violence still mounted on streets," Yu the junior recounted. "I just thought of my brother at that moment and only wanted to be with him when he was in trouble, without knowing the danger I also faced."

In the hospital, he was told by a nurse that his brother tried to back his car from the mobs, but failed. Yu Hai was pulled out of the car and beaten by dozens of thugs.

Yu the younger got the things left from his brother: a black mobile phone and a handbag, and an identification card. The police recovered them by the roadside.

"We tried to look for my brother at all hospitals from that night to the next morning except the intensive care unit wards, which can't be accessed without authorization," Yu said, "but still we can't find him."

Searching every possible place, including the funeral home and criminal police unit, for Yu Hai, the young couple failed again.

"Our only hope was that my brother was being treated in the ICU wards," Yu cried again.

"My elder brother was 34 and he could see his baby in four months," Yu said, wiping tears off his eyes. "How can we tell our pregnant sister-in-law about this?"

The ring inside his wife's bag interrupted Yu's narration.

Overturning her bag for a while, Tong found and answered the black mobile phone left behind by her deceased brother-in-law.

"Hello, he is no longer here," Tong told the phone, trying hard to speak in normal tone.


"Who is this?" Tong asked, then said. "He was murdered." Then her mood collapsed and covered her face with her hands.

As of Thursday noon, more than 1,000 families members had resorted to the working team to find their missing relatives.

Although she had personally gone through that nightmare, four-year-old Zou Liyang can't understand what has happened to her family.

"My dad has gone out to make money, so has my mom," said Zou in a pure face. "My grandparents have visited relatives."

The truth is, her parents and grandparents were all beaten to death by rioters on Sunday. Her elder brother was in an ICU ward.

Her memory about that night was "the rascals smashed the windows of my father's car and I was very afraid."

Wang Zewu, Zou's uncle, touched her head, struggling to remain calm.

"She was saved by an unknown Uygur man in red T-shirt," Wang said in a low voice, holding tight a piece of paper written with his brother-in-law's car plate number.

"We went to all hospitals in Urumqi and found my 16-year-old nephew at an ICU ward in No.3 Hospital," he said. "We can't find the four others of their family - my sister, my brother-in-law and their parents."

On Tuesday, Wang reported the missing of the Zous to the working team handling the aftermath of the riot. Two days later, he finally saw the slain photos of four members of his sister's family.


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