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'Brilliant' San Diego neuroscientist feared dead after fire in Canada

Montreal police have found 1 body and say 6 people are missing
Posted at 5:28 PM, Mar 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-22 13:21:34-04

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Friends of a missing UCSD neuroscientist fear she is dead after a massive fire ripped through the building she was staying in while attending a conference in Montreal, Canada.

An Wu is described as a brilliant neuroscientist by colleagues who work with her at the University of California San Diego.

“We're not prepared and not ready to say goodbye,” said Eva Zhang, a friend of Wu’s, following a group counseling session Tuesday.

Yue Sun is another friend of Wu’s. She said her colleagues in the university lab knew something was wrong when Wu didn’t return to San Diego on time after the trip or answer their calls.

“We don’t think it’s likely that she’s alive.”

Sun said Wu was staying on the third floor of a Montreal heritage building in an Airbnb that caught fire last Thursday in the eastern Canadian city. One person has been found dead and six more are missing.

Montreal Police told ABC 10News they have not been able to confirm the identity of the person found. They would not reveal the person’s gender and said an update on the search for the missing would come Wednesday morning.

“We really want to have her status confirmed because it still says missing right now,” said Zhang, who fought back tears during an interview Tuesday.

Zhang said she’s known Wu for just over three years and looks up to her as a role model in research. “She’s a brilliant neuroscientist.”

She said Wu's parents are now flying from China to Canada and friends have set up a GoFundMe to help pay for their travel costs.

Montreal’s mayor has vowed to beef up the regulation of Airbnb rentals in response to the fire.

The rentals are banned in the area where Wu was staying by a city bylaw.

Canadian media have reported that firefighters are using drones to look through what’s left of the building and believe the missing are likely among the rubble. Engineers deemed the building to be structurally unsafe over the weekend, according to a report by CTV News.

Airbnb said in a statement that its hearts go out to victims of the tragedy.

“We are providing our support to those affected, and we are assisting law enforcement as they investigate. We are also engaged with the mayor's office,” said Nathan Rotman, regional policy lead for the company’s Canadian office in a statement.