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December 21, 2009

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Cold puts a chill on tomb-visit crowding

CHILLY wind and freezing temperature put a crimp in tomb-sweeping, as fewer people than expected turned up in cemeteries for the customary Winter Solstice tomb-sweeping weekend peak.

Around 678,000 people went to cemeteries in the suburbs and nearby provinces to visit their ancestors' tombs on the weekend, about 20 percent fewer than expected, according to the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau.

The Shanghai Highway Administration said daily vehicle volume on local highways for the weekend was about 300,000 - not much higher than the previous weekend.

"Traffic peaked in the morning, and after that, the highway began to become free," said Dong Hui, an official with the administration.

Both bureau and administration officials said big crowds for tomb-sweeping may yet appear tomorrow, the Winter Solstice Day.

"Although it will be a workday, we still reckon that some people may be off for visiting cemeteries," said an official with the bureau's funeral management division, who only identified herself as Zheng.

In the cemeteries, the scene of people crowding around tombs didn't materialize in the morning, and there were even fewer people in the afternoon.

"I went to Fushouyuan Cemetery in Qingpu on Saturday afternoon," said Ding Ruyu, an accountant. "I felt chilly and even a bit scared because there were few people around me and my daughter."

With the weekend being the coldest so far of the winter, many people, seniors especially, chose to stay at home, officials said. As most cemeteries are in suburbs, it would be even colder than downtown.

Some cemeteries took steps to divert visits to other days.

"The number of families planning to set up new tombs decreased obviously from last year's," Zheng said. "This also helped reduce the number of people going to the cemeteries."

Earlier, the bureau expected around 2.06 million people, but up to yesterday, only near 1.09 million people have been to the cemeteries.

"The rest are very likely to go on Tuesday," said Zheng.

Traffic may clog tomorrow, officials said, when vehicles going to cemeteries meet those going to work.


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