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Kenya mall shooting: Dozens of families unsure if loved ones are dead or alive

By Arwa Damon and Holly Yan, CNN
updated 4:45 PM EDT, Thu September 26, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dozens of relatives have been waiting for answers outside a Nairobi morgue
  • As many as 63 people are still unaccounted for after Westgate Mall shooting
  • The funeral for radio host Ruhila Adatia-Sood takes place
  • At least 67 have been killed, but that number could rise

Nairobi, Kenya (CNN) -- Propped up by strangers, a woman wails outside Nairobi's main city morgue, unable to control her grief.

She enters the brown makeshift counseling tent -- but her screams still echo outside.

At the same time, dozens of families linger and wait, not sure whether their loved ones are dead or alive.

Janet Mwikali cradled her granddaughter as she longed for any word on Monday. Her husband John worked inside the mall's Nakumatt grocery store and was among the missing.

"I have hope, and I pray," she said. "He's the love of my life."

A woman shouts during a special prayer at the Legio Maria African Mission church in Nairobi, Kenya, on Sunday, September 29, for the victims of the Westgate Shopping Mall shooting. A woman shouts during a special prayer at the Legio Maria African Mission church in Nairobi, Kenya, on Sunday, September 29, for the victims of the Westgate Shopping Mall shooting.
Kenya mourns mall shooting victims
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Photos: Kenya mourns mall shooting victims Photos: Kenya mourns mall shooting victims
Relatives of Johnny Mutinda Musango, 48, weep after identifying his body at the city morgue in Nairobi, Kenya, on Tuesday, September 24. Musango was one of the victims of the Westgate Mall hostage siege. Kenyan security forces were still combing the mall on the fourth day of the siege by al Qaeda-linked terrorists. Relatives of Johnny Mutinda Musango, 48, weep after identifying his body at the city morgue in Nairobi, Kenya, on Tuesday, September 24. Musango was one of the victims of the Westgate Mall hostage siege. Kenyan security forces were still combing the mall on the fourth day of the siege by al Qaeda-linked terrorists.
Kenya mall attack
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Aftermath of the Nairobi mall seige
FBI seeks access to Kenya attack site

It's a scene that's played out many times since Al-Shabaab gunmen stormed Westgate Mall on Saturday. As many as 63 people are still unaccounted for, days after the siege began.

Al-Shabaab breaks new ground with complex Nairobi attack

But the odds seem grim. At least 67 people are dead, and many more may be trapped in the rubble of the partially-collapsed building.

The Kenyan government announced Tuesday the siege had ended, but no more corpses arrived at the main city morgue. So the agonizing wait continues.

American teens among mall attackers, Kenya says

A time of mourning, remembrance for those who know

For those who know for certain their loved ones are gone, a long road to recovery begins.

Mourners gathered Thursday to honor popular Radio Africa host Ruhila Adatia-Sood, who died while judging a children's cooking competition at the mall. Several children also were shot.

Adatia-Sood was pregnant with her first child when she died.

Adatia-Sood's relatives told CNN's David McKenzie in an emotional interview that the young mother-to-be was, as her sister Pinky Adatia Armaid described, "the glue that held us together."

"She was a media person. Everybody knew her. Everybody loved her and everybody -- if they knew she was going to be somewhere, they would come out to see her, just to see what she was like. She loved kids. Kids loved her."

"She was the light in our family," said sister-in-law Komal Sood Blount. "She has only been with a short time, but it feels like she was with us forever."

Ram Sharma, the priest for Adatia-Sood's husband's family, said that Adatia-Sood was "so happy that she is receiving a baby."

"Her tragic killing and the killing of her unborn child has (left) an irreparable hole in this tightly knit community."

As mourners gathered Thursday, relatives said they were overwhelmed by an outpouring of sympathy, support and personal loss from those who knew Adatia-Sood and from those who were among her many fans.

"We were really touched," said Pinky Adatia Arnaud. "I've see all the communities coming together, no matter what their religion, their color. I just hope people will stick together whether Ruhila was here or not."

The dreaded outcome

For those left waiting and wondering outside the morgue, hope is the only consolation.

They hope to never see their loved ones wheeled by. But they desperately want answers.

A day after Mwikali clutched her granddaughter, praying for her husband's return, she found her husband's body at the morgue.

She was too despondent to speak.

READ: Victims of the Kenya attack remembered

READ: How Kenya turned to social media after mall attack

CNN's Arwa Damon reported from Nairobi; Holly Yan wrote from Atlanta. CNN's Faith Karimi and Atika Shubert contributed to this report.

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