Blizzards kill 10 people, including 5-year-old child

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Severe snow and dust storms hit Mongolia over the weekend and earlier this week. The storms and blizzard resulted in the death of nine people in Dundgovi Province and a five-year-old child. The natural disasters caused massive damages to humans, animals, and properties throughout the country.

Wind speeds reached 20 to 24 meters per second, sometimes peaking to 30 to 34 meters per second, during the snow storms. As a result, a total of 590 people were reported missing in 51 soums of more than 10 provinces, including Arkhangai, Bulgan, Bayankhongor, Gobi-Altai, Govisumber, Dundgovi, Uvurkhangai, Umnugovi, Zavkhan, Uvs, Tuv, Khuvsgul and Khovd. Most of the missing people reports were registered in Dundgovi Province. As of March 16, all but one of the missing people were found.

Head of Disaster Management Division of the National Emergency Management Agency D.Tamir said on March 15, “In Dundgovi Province, the highest number of missing people was reported due to a severe storm. A total of 455 people went missing in the province. There were reports of death in Delgertsogt soum, one in Undurshil soum, two in Deren soum, and two in Bayanjargalant soum of Dundgovi Province.”

In addition, the emergency commission of the province was instructed to determine the extent of damages in the province and to submit a request for necessary aid.

“The Emergency Management Agency of the province is working 24 hours a day to continue the search. According to the information, 223 officers, 74 vehicles, more than 90 locals and 46 vehicles carried out search and rescue. We are working to determine the amount of damages in the province. So far, 21 gers, 20 fences and roofs of five houses have collapsed in the province.”

“According to the meteorological agency of the province, professional organizations provided timely warning to the public. On March 14, at 3:15 p.m., strong winds started from Erdenedalai soum and reached 34 meters per second. In Gobi-Ugtaal, Saikhan-Ovoo, Saintsagaan, Gurvansaikhan and Bayanjargalan soums, the wind speed reached 28 meters per second, in other soums it reached 16 meters per second, and temporarily reached 34 to 40 meters per second. It is a catastrophic event that has not been observed in recent years. Earlier in Erdenedalai soums, dust storms reached 40 meters per second in 2004, 2006 and 2007.”

Head of the State Emergency Commission S.Amarsaikhan contacted the emergency commission of the province online to exchange information on the situation in Dundgovi, where several human life was lost due to natural disasters.

The commission reported that a damage assessment is being carried out at the provincial level and that the necessary relief teams have been deployed in soums to provide assistance to the affected families.

In addition, severe dust storm hit Arkhangai Province on March 14. During the storm, the maximum wind speed reached 20 meters per second, sometimes reaching 24 meters per second. During the storm, the fences of six families collapsed, the roofs of houses collapsed, and two fire calls were made.

In Battsengel soum, three people who went missing with their livestock were found alive. A five-year-old boy was reported missing in Ugiinuur soum and his body was found about 2 kilometers west of his home. He followed his parents, who went out in search of their herd, related officials said.

The deputy prime minister expressed his deep condolences to the families of the herders who lost their lives in the disaster and ordered to implementing risk prevention activities in the affected provinces.

Snowstorm cuts power in several provinces

Due to the blizzards, Power Transmission Line No. 216 was damaged 10 km from the Russian border, which caused an emergency situation and caused power outages in western provinces of Mongolia. As a result, residents of western provinces did not have power for several hours on Saturday. An emergency response team worked to address the situation for 48 hours, according to the Western Region Energy System’s website.

The Durgun hydropower plant was temporarily connected to supply electricity to western provinces. Reconstruction of the fallen line is being carried out by engineers and technicians of the Western Region Electricity Transmission Network.

In addition, Khentii, Sukhbaatar, Dornogovi, and Govisumber provinces experienced temporary power outages due to damages to the power transmission line that supplies power to eastern provinces. The damage was repaired immediately and operations returned to normal, according to the National Emergency Management Agency.

Emergency workers save lives

Due to blizzards, emergency workers rescued citizens in dangerous situations. For instance, three eight-walled gers collapsed in Ulaan-Ar, Bayanbulag bag, Khovd soum of Khovd Province, due to snow storms. Wind speeds reached 30 meters per second in the province and the homes of three families collapsed. Fortunately, no one was killed or injured.

On March 14, eight gers of Bayan Airag LLC, located in Tsogt bag of Durvuljin soum of Zavkhan Province, collapsed and the roof of one house was damaged.

Some incidents related to the disaster:

  • - A car was stuck in the snow in Teel bag, Tarialan soum, Uvs Province (20 km southeast of the province center and 50 km southeast of the soum center). The call was registered by the Emergency Management Agency, and when the rescue team arrived, the Toyota Prius traveling from Uvs Lake to Ulaangom soum was stuck in snow. Four people were in the car, and the car was pulled out of snow.
  • - A car was stuck in snow in Khondlon, 8th bag, Ulaangom soum of Uvs Province on the night of March 14. The call was registered by the Emergency Management Agency at 3:30 a.m. Rescuers quickly removed the vehicle out of snow.
  • - A car got stuck in snow in Tsagaan Davaa, Jargalant bag, Undurkhangai soum of Uvs Province (310 km south of the province center and 30 km south of the soum center). Emergency organizations of the province provided assistance and pulled out the vehicle from snow.

If immediate action isn’t taken and the blizzard prolongs, more people will lose their lives and property. Head of Forecasting Division of the Meteorological Agency and Research and Environmental Monitoring L.Oyunjargal said, “In general, such a strong storm occurs every spring. On May 14, 2020, there was a heavy snow and dust storm. There were also natural disasters in May 2015 and March 2016.”

“In recent days, storms reached an average of 28 meters per second, sometimes temporarily reaching 40 meters per second. A strong storm swept across all provinces and soums of Mongolia, with strong winds in neighboring countries. Citizens are responding to warnings of professional organizations. The Meteorological and Environmental Research Agency began issuing warnings last Friday.”

Guideline for preventing losses during storms

  • Regularly receive weather and warnings through media and other sources, and ensure preparedness.
  • Do not travel long distances during storms.
  • Do not let your livestock graze far.
  • Gaining knowledge and skills to protect and save one’s own and others’ health and lives in the event of a disaster, and provide first aid.
  • Prepare food, drinking water, fuel, first aid kits, toiletries and warm clothing.
  • Charge, keep mobile phones, radios, televisions, and lighting fixtures ready,
  • Keep important civil documents and valuables in a safe place and all family members should know it.
  • Monitor and ensure the safety of children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with disabilities.
  • Make fodder reserves, insulate fences, protect wells and water, identify shelters, and inform the community.
  • Measures have been taken to protect livestock.
  • Obtain life and accident insurance.
  • Do not build a house or apartment under high voltage or power lines.

Enkhnaranjav Tumurbaatar