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Urumqi works to calm its troubled neighborhoods

URUMQI appeared to be calm under a heavy paramilitary police presence yesterday after an overnight traffic curfew, but sporadic clashes were still reported.

Although the "comprehensive traffic curfew" had ended, traffic restrictions were imposed on some major streets, with members of the Armed Police on patrol and armored personnel carriers standing by.

Urumqi Mayor Jerla Isamudin said supplies of water and electricity were normal.

About 90 percent of the city's bus services had resumed by noon yesterday, the mayor told a press conference.

Urumqi has about 1,000 buses, of which 190 were torched or otherwise damaged in the Sunday night riot that left at least 156 people dead and 1,080 injured.

Urumqi Airport was crowded with people anxious to leave the capital of the Xingjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Li Qian, holding her seven-year-old son, was among those hurrying to catch a flight. She flew to Xinjiang for vacation but canceled her plan to go to Tianchi Lake about 110 kilometers from Urumqi.

After the riot, Li said she just wanted to get back home. Those who were not able to book a ticket have gone to nearby hotels. "We fear Xinjiang is not safe anymore," said a passenger, who declined to be named.

Nearly all the hotels next to the airport were full, while only half of the rooms were occupied before the riot.

In the downtown, women hustled to store up extra groceries, and some office workers were given a day off.

The Urumqi government transported vegetables in 25 railway cars from neighboring cities and counties on Tuesday to supply the city of 3.5 million people, the mayor said.

The food was sent to supermarkets and major bazaars. More restaurants were resuming business yesterday. Shops in hospitals also increased supplies to meet the needs of the patients.

But shortages still remained.

At a roadside market where 50 members of the Armed Police were patrolling, at least one-third of the stalls were empty. Prices of the vegetables were generally two to three times higher than they were before the riot.

Even so, a woman surnamed Niu decided to stock up so she wouldn't have to go out too often. "Vegetables could be even more expensive tomorrow," she said.

Su Can, who works in an airlines company, was staying home. "I don't want to go out, and my friends said we could just make phone calls to each other," Su said.

Li Gang said his company gave workers a day off and asked them not to leave their houses.

"Now that the streets are guarded and helicopters are hovering, I think social order can be restored," he said.

Whether Han or Uygur, people worried that the riot would leave a rift between them. Among them, Azgul works in a hotel and has many Han friends. After the riot, some of her friends called to tell her to stay indoors and be careful.

"I was touched," she said.

But in another sense, she felt unsure that her friendships could last. The 27-year-old is preparing to get married. "Can my Han friends attend my wedding ceremony?" she wondered.


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