Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Beware the Manholes!

Please take a moment to read the introduction (left) to a news article from last Friday's (Jan 20) edition of the UB Post. 

Had you every contemplated death-by-unattended/uncovered-manhole? (And what exactly IS an attended manhole?)

I wish I could say that I had never considered the idea, but then I live in Ulaanbaatar and shortly after arrival Zorig warned me to NEVER, under any circumstance, step on a manhole. It does not matter if it's cover is made of steel or concrete or something else (one assumes that you'd notice one lacking a cover altogether, but wandering a street at night, drunk, could certainly lead to death or injury), I am to NOT touch the circular cover of these holes that give access to the underbelly of our city. 

The headline for the news article reads: "Holes that Lead to Death." It is a feature story that explains the injuries and deaths attributed to unattended/uncovered manholes in the city of Ulaanbaatar. Once the article is loaded online, I will certainly include a link to it HERE.

But for now, I want to tell you that I observe my husband and son as always stepping over or around manholes (most of the ones I encounter ARE covered). I have heard stories from coworkers that there was an employee from the past that fell into an uncovered manhole and broke both legs! (I do not know if that is a true story or an ASU myth of some sort. If you know, please verify in a comment at the end of this post.)

Infographic in the paper about the # of manholes in UB
Until recently I rode one of the ASU school buses to school each morning. On our route, for more than A YEAR I observed a gapingly open manhole on one side of a busy street. It was located on a corner. Buses and cars seemed to always maneuver around it and I noted on more than several occasions that people left an old tire or a concrete block in the middle of the street BEFORE the open manhole in an attempt to warn drivers. But it scared me and I worried about kids playing in the street (being careless) or drunks wandering around in the dark. I sincerely wonder if it wasn't one of the places where a person from the news story lost their life. 

I remember hearing stories before I moved here about the street children (homeless kids) that live in the underground world which the manholes give them access to. You can read an older article about that HERE (from The Economist).

(insert non sequiter here) While visiting the Grand Canyon a few years back I remember a Park Ranger telling our group that a few people die each year by simply falling into the Canyon. Some of them are men--and some of those men were trying to pee down into the canyon....and lost their sense of balance. Can you imagine? 

But worse than that would be stumbling home under the influence of a little too much vodka, and/or having bad lighting in the alley way....and suddenly THWUMP.....you fall into a manhole. To injury or death.  

I have no idea how to conclude this post....so I'll just say--be careful out there, and Watch out for the Manholes! 


  1. I know 2 friends that have fallen into manholes here.

    One while walking in the winter haze in the morning but he was lucky he managed to break his fall with his arms and ended up with his legs dangling in the hole while balanced on his arms.

    The other wasn't so lucky he fell into a hole in front of his house when he was coming home drunk and ended up with 2 broken ribs and a massive gash on his shin.

    I find it hilarious that someone told you never to step on the manholes here, that's just knowledge that no one ever told us but we all know. Some kind of ghetto third world survival instinct lol.

  2. Hello Mazzy! Wow...terrible to hear. It would be most frightening to fall into one....and I wonder sometimes how far the drop is. I can't say I went out of my way to step on them....before being warned....but in America it was something I never thought about. I was happy to be advised about the danger!