Mozambique's capital Maputo got back to work on Friday after two days of rioting, triggered by a sharp hike in bread prices, which the government said left seven dead, 288 injured and millions of dollars of damage.

Buses resumed normal service and people returned to their jobs, walking along streets strewn with debris, burnt tyres, broken electricity poles and garbage from looted shops.

Seven people, including two children, were killed when police opened fire on protesters in the deadliest riots to hit the southern African country of 23 million since 2008.

This was the worst rioting I have ever seen in my life, people can really turn very violent and lives are at risk, instead of a peaceful demonstration, Maputo resident Felizmina Fabia said.

Mozambique's Trade and Industry Minister Antonio Fernandes estimated damages at around 122 million meticais (2.1 million pounds) in the southern African country where 70 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

The losses from the events of Wednesday and Thursday are estimated at 122 million meticais and we registered seven deaths and 288 injuries, Fernandes said on state-controlled Radio Mozambique.


Opposition parties and human rights groups have criticised the government, saying it failed to gauge the anger that would be unleashed by the 30 percent bread price increase and hikes in water and electricity tariffs.

The government underestimated the situation and can't understand or doesn't want to understand that this is a protest against the higher cost of living, Alice Mabota, head of the Mozambican League of Human Rights, told Portugal's Lusa news agency.

Although Mozambique is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa, it has never fully recovered from one of Africa's bloodiest civil wars, which ended in 1992, and it has a 54 percent unemployment rate.

Some Mozambicans said the riots had caused serious damage to the city's social structure.

Things are getting back to normal now and we can resume our normal life, the protests caused a lot of damage to the social setup in Maputo, Police Constable Julia Fortes said while queueing for bread in a long line in central Maputo.

The government-imposed price rise took the cost of a breadroll -- the bread staple of Mozambicans -- to 20 U.S. cents in a country where the average worker earns around $37 a month.

Egyptians also protested over food prices in recent months, and analysts have been warning that riots could follow the jump in food prices in Africa and the Middle East [ID:nLDE67A0Y0]

Mozambicans say they have been hit hard by the rising price of bread and other basic goods, as world wheat prices have soared, but the government said the hikes could not be reversed.

Drought and fires in Russia, which had been the world's No. 3 wheat exporter, and a decision by the Russian government to extend a grain export ban until late 2011, have served to boost benchmark U.S. wheat prices by more than 25 percent this year.

Mozambique also depends heavily on imports from South Africa, which have become more expensive in recent months as the South African rand currency strengthened. The meticai local currency has lost around 29 percent against the dollar this year.

The Mozambican government had deployed troops to clear barricades in the capital as angry protesters blocked roads with burning tyres and looted shops and police said live ammunition was used in some cases when they ran out of rubber bullets, although they had not received an order to do so.

The IMF expects 7 percent GDP growth in Mozambique this year. The country's main exports are aluminium, electric power, coal and farm products, including sugar.

Riots in Mozambique in 2008, also over prices, left at least six dead.

(Writing by Agnieszka Flak; Editing by Marius Bosch and Michael Roddy)