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Mongolian storms kill 16,000 livestock, block roads
ULAN BATOR, Mongolia (Reuters) -- Early snow storms in Mongolia have killed almost 16,000 head of livestock and thousands of families are migrating to save herds from another devastating winter, the State Emergency Commission said on Wednesday.
More than three million head of livestock starved and froze to death last winter -- the coldest in 30 years -- following a harsh summer drought which parched crops and pasture.
This year, snow has already blanketed more than 90 percent of the country, starving herds weakened by another severe summer drought which cut the hay crop normally used for winter feed, the commission said.
Many roads were blocked by deep snow, slowing distribution of fodder and food aid, and several areas had already run out of fuel, it said.
"The situation is serious," Gurragchaa, the defense minister who heads the commission, told reporters. "It is clear it will not improve before the spring."
One-third of Mongolia's 2.4 million people depend on livestock for food, transport, heating materials and cash-barter purchasing power.
So far this winter, at least 15,843 animals had died due to harsh weather in the southern province of Gobi-Sumber, and more losses were expected all over the country, officials said.
At least 11,170 households had migrated with about 4.4 million head of livestock in search of warmer pastures, they said.
"There are very few herders staying in their home areas and it is extremely important to organize new health services for herders," said Food and Agriculture Minister Nasanjargal.
He said Mongolia had received $10 million from Japan to help dislocated herders and their livestock. About $2.6 million would be distributed in emergency fodder.
About 60 percent of Mongolia was affected by drought this summer and in some western provinces more than 75 percent of land was too dry to grow enough to feed animals.
The officials said they had received appeals for aid from several provinces, especially for fuel, fodder, food, medicine and vehicles to distribute aid.
The International Red Cross said in November Mongolia was facing another winter disaster and local authorities lacked the money and supplies to prepare for the long winter.
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