Mongolia: Sandstorm - DREF Operation n° MDRMN014 Final Report

Situation Report
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Description of the disaster

A violent gust of wind swept across the country from 14 to 15 March 2021, where the wind speed reached 18-34 m/s (meter per second) in Uvurkhangai, Bulgan, and Umnugovi provinces, while the wind speed was at 22-40 m/s in Dundgovi province. The wind speed also reached 16-28 m/s in Govi-Altai, Bayankhongor,
Arkhangai, Tuv, Khentii, Dornod, Sukhbaatar, and Dornogovi. Even though the warnings had been disseminated two days before the event by the National Agency for Meteorology and Environmental Monitoring, many travelling and herding their livestock went missing. According to Government resolution no.286 of 2015, if wind speed reaches 18 m/s, it is considered a disaster, while if the wind speed exceeds 24 m/s, it is regarded as a catastrophic phenomenon.
Due to the wind, 590 people from 46 soum 1 of Arkhangai, Bulgan, Bayankhongor, Govi-Altai, Govisumber, Dundgovi, Uvurkhangai, Umnugovi, Zavkhan, Uvs, Tuv, Khuvsgul, and Khovd provinces went missing on the night of 14 March. Following that, 519 people out of 590 were found, as stated by National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). By 1:00 PM on 15 March, 69 out of the missing 81 people were found, and efforts were made to find the remaining 12 people. Unfortunately, as stated by NEMA, ten people out of 12 missing were found killed by the wind. There was one casualty in Arkhangai province while the others were from Dundgovi province.
Two people were later found and rescued in Sukhbaatar province.
As of 10:00 AM on 16 March, estimated damage and loss included ten casualties (one minor and nine adults), 1.6 million missing livestock, 69 severely damaged buildings including office buildings and houses, 587 fences, and 92 destroyed gers 2 . The Deputy Prime Minister himself has expressed his condolences to the families who lost their members to the wind. He gave the provincial emergency commissions the task of protecting herders going on otor3 from potential violent wind and expressed his regret about such a tragic loss of lives, even when the prevention measures were disseminated.
The storm also damaged major infrastructures such as electricity poles and sub-stations. Due to the event, at 11:20 PM on 13 March, the 216th pillar of the C-458 overhead line, which supplies electricity from Russia to the western regions, collapsed and left Bayan-Ulgii, Uvs, Khovd provinces without electricity. A temporary supply connection was established at the hydropower plant in Khovd province to provide electricity to the mentioned provinces. The Western region’s power transmission network staff tried to restore the pillar and fixed it by 15 March. Also, there was a temporary disruption to the 207th overhead line that supplied electricity to eastern provinces, including Khentii, Sukhbaatar, Dornogovi,
Govisumber, which was repaired on 15 March.

Summary of response

Overview of Host National Society

The Mongolian Red Cross Society (MRCS) is the largest humanitarian organization in Mongolia, with 34 midlevel branches across the country and over 100,000 volunteers. It’s legally bound to serve the people of Mongolia by “Law on the Legal Status of the Mongolian Red Cross Society”, and it bears an auxiliary role to the government to provide support in disaster risk management and other sectors. The service MRCS has to offer is mentioned in the revised version of “Disaster Protection Law”. The MRCS is a member of the National Emergency Commission and is actively involved in the planning and designing of the national response to the emerging crisis. The MRCS has been providing humanitarian assistance to anticipate and respond to the needs of vulnerable communities for 80 years and has operated numerous dzud, flash flood operations, including DREF, Emergency Appeals, and Forecast based Action (FbA). It has rich experience in anticipating and responding to disasters. The MRCS offers a wide range of intervention types: cash-based intervention, livestock nutrition items, food and essential items, and psychosocial support.
Ever since the forecast was received from the meteorological agency, MRCS has been disseminating preventive information through its media channels and branches across the country. Branch disaster response teams in Dundgovi and Govi-Altai, Bayankhongor provinces gathered and worked on the site to collect timely information. The Red Cross branch managers in Arkhangai, Bulgan, Bayankhongor, Govi-Altai, Govisumber, Dundgovi, Uvurkhangai, Umnugovi,
Zavkhan, Uvs, Tuv, Khuvsgul, Sukhbaatar, and Dornod provinces attended provincial emergency commission meetings.

Overview of Red Cross Red Crescent Movement in country

Through its Country Cluster Delegation for East Asia and Regional Office in Kuala Lumpur, the IFRC supported coordination of disaster response efforts of its secretariat in assisting the MRCS. The IFRC and its programmes and coordination office in Mongolia supported MRCS in implementing activities through technical assistance, monitoring and evaluation, and any required logistical and administrative support.

Overview of non-RCRC actors in country

Due to the event, the government passed an order to provincial emergency commissions to establish a database of herders as they are most vulnerable to natural hazards like severe storms.

Needs analysis and scenario planning

A needs assessment was conducted by the relevant provincial emergency management agency teams and Red Cross branch disaster response teams via on-site visits on 15 and 16 March, and phone calls were made during the storm. The assessments indicated the priority need was shelter and HHI (household items) as families had lost their homes. Families mentioned the preference for cash assistance as the modality for families to repair or rebuild their gers (traditional houses) and other types of houses.
Households who had their gers and houses severely and partially destroyed were in great need to repair their house damage and replace the essential household items lost in the storm. According to the needs assessment, the roofs of the houses were usually ripped off by storms, which could be repaired with cash assistance. At the same time, the essential household assets could be bought as the local market system is functioning. As stated by the needs assessment, unconditional multipurpose cash assessment could be the optimal intervention modality to address the various needs of the households who had their houses and gers partially damaged. In the assessment, the unconditional multipurpose cash assistance was encouraged by the representatives of the affected population and relevant local authorities, including the local emergency management agency and the governor’s office. Those who completely lost their houses were in desperate need of accommodation and basic needs such as food and essential household items. The immediate needs of the households who lost their homes completely were met by providing gers, kitchen sets, mattresses, and blankets.
Gers, kitchen sets, mattresses and blankets were procured and allocated as in-kind assistance to the affected population.

Risk Analysis

Since March to May were spring months when weather was unreliable as another storm could hit the country. By extensive collaboration with the Meteorology office, MRCS carefully monitored news on other storms that could affect the operation. Despite surging COVID-19 cases in Mongolia that reached over 100 locally transmitted cases per day, there was no regulation regarding the COVID-19 outbreak that interfered with operation activities, including procurement, transportation, and allocation of the items.