The bodies are laid out on metal blocks, victims from all walks of life lying side by side amid a stench of death in Nairobi City Mortuary.

Vehicles drove in and out, from shiny black hearses to beat-up minibuses, to fetch the dead from the attack by Somali militants on an upmarket Nairobi shopping mall.

For many families, the anguished search for loved ones missing since the siege began Saturday ended here at the central mortuary.

"There were 38 bodies, now only 16 are left," mortuary superintendant Sammy Nyongesa Jacob told AFP.

The smell of decomposition wafted out of the open windows of the unrefrigerated morgue, hitting visitors as they entered the car park.

A pathologist's bloodied coat sleeve was visible through the window as attendants in white disposable overalls, face masks and latex gloves bundled another corpse into a waiting hearse.

"Yesterday we were moving around from hospital to hospital looking for him. Now we are here for the post mortem," said Alice, widow of 63-year-old David Muthumbi Karechu, a manager at Bank of Baroda.

"I did not know where he had gone. Around five on Saturday Mum called me and asked if I had been able to get in touch with him," recounted Karechu's eldest son, Zachary.

"It was when we were watching the news that we started to realise it was a possibility Dad had been caught up in that attack," he said.

"We searched the whole of Saturday night and the whole of Sunday," he told AFP, adding that his father's body had been brought in on Sunday afternoon.

"We're trying to bear with the situation," said Jane Mwigi, a smartly dressed relative, turning away to remove her glasses and wipe the tears from her eyes.

"You go out in the morning and then you never come back," said David Nyaboga, another Bank of Baroda manager who had come along to give support to the grieving family.

Around the corner in a garden, the family of a chauffeur named Wachiru huddled in a subdued group.

"He'd gone to the mall with the family of his boss. He was a driver," volunteered Wachiru's youngest son, Mark.

One of his older brothers Steven, too distraught to speak, was being comforted by friends and family on a bench.

Elizabeth Akinyi, the family's pastor, recounted how difficult it had been to break the news to the young man. "Steven is such a sensitive person," she said.

"Wachiru was a dear to everyone," chipped in an uncle, who identified himself only as Njoroge.

A diplomatic vehicle ferried in three officials in green reflective waistcoats identifying them as embassy personnel. They appeared to be helping with formalities as the body of a British citizen was carried out to a waiting hearse.

In the carpark, vendors were selling the red streamers that hearses are required to attach to their mirrors, rope for lashing a coffin to a minibus roof and flower arrangements.

In a country so often defined by its ethnic and class divisions, Kenyans seemed united in grief.

"Everyone was affected by this attack," said Sarah Mbone, an elderly woman wearing a tie-dye shawl over a flowery dress.

"President (Uhuru) Kenyatta lost his nephew, and me, just an ordinary person, I lost my niece," Mbone said.

"She had popped into the bank."

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