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April 5, 2012

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5.8 million sweep tombs in record Qingming turnout

THE three-day Qingming Festival holiday that culminated yesterday saw a record traffic flow in Shanghai as more than 5.8 million residents swept tombs across the city, Shanghai police said yesterday.

Traffic congestion was spotted on highways in the mornings from Monday to yesterday, during which more than 514,000 vehicles were on the road, police said.

Both numbers smashed records for traffic flow for the holiday, according to police.

Yesterday was the actual holiday, when Chinese by tradition visit their ancestors' tombs. More than 2.5 million residents in Shanghai were estimated to have visited cemeteries yesterday, and the city's highways leading to major cemeteries in suburban Jiading, Qingpu, Songjiang and Fengxian districts started to jam up from 7am.

The situation got worse later as cars inching toward Jiading from the S5 Hujia Expressway lined up on the Middle Ring Road in Baoshan District for several kilometers. The traffic congestion finally lifted around 9:30am.

At least five traffic accidents were confirmed around Tianmashan Cemetery but none was serious, police said. Extra traffic police forces, including two helicopters with another one standing by, were dispatched to the major intersections and tollgates to help move traffic, police said.

According to Chinese tradition, the tomb visits should end before noon because the gate to the netherworld is believed to close at 12pm, and most people thus choose to visit their relatives' graves in the morning.

In Qingpu District, vehicles lined up for several kilometers on the roads to Fushouyuan Cemetery, one of the biggest graveyards in the city. Zhang Guozhong, a cemetery visitor, said it took him and his family more than three hours to reach the cemetery.

"We took the cemetery's shuttle bus, and usually it only takes us less than an hour," he said.

Zhang said the shuttle bus was so stuck in the traffic jam about 2 kilometers from the cemetery that passengers simply got off the bus to walk there.

Meanwhile at Xianhe Cemetery in Minhang District, the parking lot was fully packed by about 9:30am. Vehicles waiting for a parking place lined up for about 2 kilometers on the road to the cemetery.

Sunshine invites travel

"We have always hoped that people could give up the superstitious thoughts and come in the afternoon," said Zhao Xiaohu, general manager of Binhaiguyuan Cemetery in Fengxian District. "But still people respect the traditions more than anything."

Meanwhile, pleasant weather during the holiday encouraged people to get out and enjoy the spring sunshine.

At Shanghai South Long-Distance Bus Station, a key hub for short-trip travelers despite its name, more than 150,000 people took buses to neighboring provinces, a 16.5 percent jump over last year and comparable to the volume during the annual Spring Festival, said officials.


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