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Early mourners clog highways

MORE than 2.6 million local people visited ancestors' graves yesterday during Qingming, the traditional festival for mourning, Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau said last night.

Some people reached cemeteries as early as 5am, the bureau said, adding visitations were up 10 percent on last year and exceeded expectations.

Local transport authorities said more than 555,000 vehicles set out early for cemetery visits, causing traffic jams.

From 5am to 9am, more than 180,000 vehicles were stuck on several highways, and roads around cemeteries were jammed, according to the Shanghai Highway Administration.

Director Dai Dunwei said Jiangqiao toll station on the A11 Highway, which connects Shanghai and Nanjing, handled 50 percent more traffic volume than for the same period last Saturday and was 200 percent more than on usual weekends.

Officials said toll charges were suspended temporarily during the peak period to move traffic quickly and relieve congestion.

Shanghai South Long-Distance Bus Station and Shanghai Railway Station also got busy before 7am as many ancestors of Shanghai people are buried in surrounding cities.

A total of 1,050 buses set out from the Shanghai South Long-Distance Bus Station carrying more than 33,000 people, up 45 percent on last year's Qingming Festival.

Most buses went to cities in Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Anhui provinces. The station increased the number of buses by 200 to cope with the volume of tomb sweepers, officials said.

Shanghai railway police were on duty all day as more than 240,000 people used trains to get to grave sites.

Cemeteries also took measures to ease the traffic burden, many offering half-price tickets on afternoon shuttle buses to encourage people to avoid the morning peak.

The holiday was not only for tomb sweeping, with Shanghai Sightseeing Bus Center reporting more than 3,890 tourists visiting the suburbs.

The Flower Port in Nanhui District was the most popular scenic spot, with visitor volumes up 40 percent over last year's Qingming holiday.


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