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Crushed: family mourns husband, son killed in UK fire

By Nguyen Hai   August 15, 2022 | 06:42 am PT
Crushed: family mourns husband, son killed in UK fire
Tran Thi Huy, 28, sheds tears while hugging her son upon mentioning about her husband, 31-year-old Nguyen Van Uoc, who has been confirmed dead in U.K. mill fire, August 14, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Hai
Holding two children aged 6 and 8 in her arms, the mother broke down Sunday afternoon as she spoke about praying hard for a miracle to save her missing husband.

Tran Thi Huy, 28, of Dien Chau District in the north central Nghe An Province, is the wife of 31-year-old Nguyen Van Uoc, who has been confirmed dead in a mill fire in Oldham, Manchester back in May.

On Saturday, Huy received a phone call from the U.K. The person on the other side was a representative of the Manchester police, informing her fingerprint analyses of a body found in the aftermath of the fire showed that it belonged to Uoc, one of four Vietnamese nationals reported missing last month. They said a DNA analysis would be done next to confirm the fingerprint analysis.

A month ago, hair and nail samples of Uoc’s family members were sent to the U.K. police by a Vietnamese citizen living in the U.K. who came back home to collect them.

"We have been praying hard at the altar, hoping a miracle would happen for Uoc. But that hope is gone," Huy said.

At the end of 2016, just months after the couple had welcomed their second child, Uoc left his wife and family and went to Russia as a foreign worker. In 2017, he told Huy that he had already reached the U.K.

Huy was surprised. She tried to ask her husband for more details, but he refused to tell her about his journey to the U.K. as he "didn't want his family to worry." Uoc was also the one who actively called home whenever he was free.

Huy said her husband's income over the past six years had not been stable. There were times when he had money and times he didn't. The last call she received from him was on May 6. He was talking about working in a large facility in Oldham.

"Through the video call, I could sense that my husband's health was in decline. He told me that his job was stressful, that he constantly had to stay indoors. I told him that if it gets too tough, it's okay to quit," Huy said.

After wishing his children goodnight, Uoc told Huy to take care of them and wait for his return. But then news of a fire at the Bismark House Mill came, and Huy felt that something had gone very wrong. She tried to contact her husband, but her calls never connected.

For the next two months, Huy constantly waited for her husband to contact her, but all she heard was static. She sought help from the Vietnamese Embassy in the U.K., scanned her husband's personal identity card and mailed it, hoping they could track him down.

Meanwhile, 54-year-old Nguyen Van Cuong, Uoc's father, has been sitting on his own in a corner of the yard. His voice had gone hoarse after days of calling out his son's name in grief.

Uoc was the firstborn in a family of four siblings. Due to family circumstances, he was only able to finish 8th grade before quitting to help his family at the farm. Later he found work at a local industrial complex.

"I feel sorry for my son, who had to work so hard from such a young age. Now I have only wish: that authorities help to bring his body home."

Nguyen Van Cuong, 54, has spent the past two months waiting for news from his son, 31-year-old Nguyen Van Uoc. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Hai

Nguyen Van Cuong, 54, had spent the last two months waiting for news from his son, 31-year-old Nguyen Van Uoc. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Hai

In the same district, Chu Thanh Cao's parents have already lit incense at the family altar for their son, 39-year-old Chu Van Cuong. Cuong is another one of the four Vietnamese who went missing in the U.K. last month and is suspected to have perished in the fire.

"We have sent DNA samples to U.K. authorities for verification," a relative said, adding that Cuong had been in the U.K. since 2019.

A Dien Chau District official said the administration was aware that one of their residents has died in a fire in the U.K.

"When we get the official announcements from authorities, the district will offer our condolences and support to his family."

Two other families in Nghe An’s Yen Thanh District also have missing members suspected to have been in the Oldham mill at the time of the fire.

The fire at the Bismark House mill in Oldham broke out early in the morning on May 7 and took four days to extinguish. The police believed then that there was no one inside.

It was only on July 21, after local police received a call saying four Vietnamese nationals were missing and might have been caught in the fire, that a search was launched.

The four missing persons were identified as: Chu Van Cuong, 39; Nguyen Van Uoc, 31; Nguyen Van Duong, 29; and Le Thanh Nam, 21.

Demolition workers have so far found three bodies at the mill. The first one was found on July 23, and the others on July 27 and August 4, U.K. media reported.

Details of the Vietnamese's work in the U.K. and their legal status are not clear.

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