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Cemeteries on fire alert as grave sweeping season looms

Local cemeteries have raised their anti-fire level as the tomb sweeping season returns around December 22, the Winter Solstice Day. Fire fighters and fire engines will stand by on alert during the peak days, the cemeteries said today.

As the Chinese believe the Winter solstice Day is the best day to open a grave, hundreds of ash urns will be buried that day in each cemetery amid fireworks. As a tradition, families paying a visit to the dead will also burn candles, joss sticks and paper offerings.

"We would ban fire crackers this year as it is too dangerous," said Gu Wenjun, deputy general manager of the Fushouyuan Cemetery in Qingpu District. "Burning paper offerings will not be banned as it is a prevailing custom, but every staff in the cemetery will keep alert to prevent fire."
Gu suggested people to write messages on a card or fold paper cranes to mourn the death of their loved ones.

Binhaiguyuan Cemetery in Fengxian District said fire fighters will be with them from December 18 to the end of the month, just in case. "We tried to persuade families not to do dangerous things but the effort may be in vain because the power of tradition is too strong," said Zhao Xiaohu, general manager of the cemetery.

An estimated 2.25 million people will visit cemeteries around the Winter Solstice Day, about 140,000 people more than last year's same period, said the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau today.

More than 200,000 vehicles will carry cemetery visitors, possibly causing traffic jams on local highways. Cemeteries near Metro lines said they will provide free shuttle buse service and called on people to use the public transportation.


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