USA Today published a very short piece on a very disturbing event in Ulan Baatar, Mongolia. It transpires that an independent Vodka manufacturer used several hundred liters of Methyl or industrial alcohol  as a booster in the holiday production. The rest so far is the reported deaths of at least fourteen people and the hospitalization of many more.

This problem manifested itself on New Years Eve, and resulted in the Hospital Emergency rooms becoming very busy places indeed.

Through quick action by the local media the brands and manufacturer were quickly named and widely publicized, thereby preventing even more fatalities. The local government was also quick to respond and on the evening of New Years day prohibiting the sale of Vodka and other clear liquors, also all official celebrations were reported to be cancelled.

BNN has a reporter in Ulan Baatar, Mark Scease, and Mark sent the following update:
On 2 January the mayor of Ulan Baatar announced a suspension of all alcohol sales and slowly the various stores, hotels, and bars became dry. On the evening of 3 January, I left for an overnight trip to China, for purposes unrelated to alcohol consumption (well, I did buy a bottle of inner Mongolian produced rice wine, but that was for the decorative decanter). As a result of my trip though, I am just getting back in touch with the local scene.
One of my local reporters; my friend and personal physician reports, he was able to buy beer at a local club while I was gone, but the police came in and shut them down. However, the manager was able to reach an agreement with the officers and they reopened after a short delay. My observations upon my return yesterday, showed the various coolers in central UB (Ulan Baatar) and my neighborhood to be either empty or sealed by the government. My other reporter on the local scene (my dear wife) reports that she knows of no such occurrence of this nature in her memory and her father arrived this morning to relate the same observation. I am curious to observe the local reaction, as the Mongolians do love their beer and vodka and the line where lawfulness and deprivation of a staple cross, should be an interesting one to find.

We are trying a two pronged approach to analyzing the situation on the ground today. My wife will be going out in the city to try and score some beer. Ah, that is; to investigate any beginnings of a local black market. The doctor and I are going to explore the municipal boundaries of Ulan Baatar by automobile in the hopes of finding an open store beyond the city limits. Ulan Baatar is an autonomous municipality within the boundaries of the local aimag or province/state, somewhat analogous to the city of London, and the power only extends to the edge of city limits. Of course, outside of city limits lies the Mongolian Countryside and stores are few and far between. Mongolians being Mongolians, however, any store will have beer, unless of course supplies from the city have failed to keep up with demand.

I’m unsure about the possibilities of civil insurrection. The Australian and Canadian miner population’s are at a low level, due to a continuing problem with the government over production taxes and licensing, and the expats in residence have their own stocks, as do the various embassies. If the local population rises; we will attempt to take refuge in the British embassy. No offense, you Canadians helped us out during the unpleasantness in Iran during the ‘70’s, but the Brits are right down the street and have their own bar. I’ll keep you posted on this continuing crisis as it unfolds. Mark Scease

Could you imagine Los Angeles or Denver banning booze?

Simon Barrett

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