Friday, May 30, 2008

45 Killed in Snowstorms in Mongolia

At least 45 people froze to death in the snowstorms of the past week in Mongolia, and many more missing. This would be in the countrysides and all of the dead and missing would be nomads and herders. Spring in Mongolia is a time of unpredictable and sudden changes in weather almost on a daily basis.

The average temperature in Mongolia today is around +18 to +20 Degrees Celsius. Not exactly the temperature for a snowstorm, but a +20C day followed by a -5C snowstorm has been known to happen during the spring in Mongolia.

The weather has been getting harsher and more unpredictable during the last 10 years, with the extreme temperatures in Mongolia getting more extreme, with people having strokes during heat waves in the summer (occasionally getting up to +40, 45 Degrees) and extremely cold winters that have left many nomadic households with diminished herds and means to support themselves. The havoc the draughts had caused have forced many shepherds and nomads to seek stabler means of livelihood in urban areas. The population of Ulaanbaatar has risen to nearly 1 million as a result. Sadly, there are few work opportunities in the urban areas for the former-nomads and herders, most of whom would have no more than a primary / secondary school education. During its heydays as a communist state, Mongolia enjoyed one of the highest literacy rates in the world at around 98%+. But literacy does not equal to education, and many of the migrants from the countryside are literate but ill-equipped and unskilled for jobs in the city.

The logical result of the mass migration from the countryside was a dramatic increase in petty and violent crime in the city, with the city's poor infrastructure threatening to collapse in a heap.
There is little city-planning, if any, for Ulaanbaatar. Most politicians seem to have given up on the idea of restructuring the city planning, knowing if not them, it will be someone else who will step up to the money in the brown envelope and hand out a license for the construction of an office over a children's playground or 5 metres away from a residential aparement building where the residents could perhaps throw stones at their unwelcome neighbours from their windows.

Rumours have been circulating in the Mongolian media of an impending earthquake in June in Ulaanbaatar city. The source: Shamans. They predict an earthquake of such magnitude that the city of Ulaanbaatar would be mostly destroyed... This sort of paranoia and fear propaganda seems to be the trend the lamas and shamans follow these days: doomsday prophecies enthusiastically thrown about with glee.

Earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes have never really travelled up to Mongolia to any lasting damage. Snowstorms, draughts have been the main problem in Mongolia.