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The 1931 Central China floods or the Central China floods of 1931 are a series of floods that occurred during the Nanjing decade in the Republic of Chinamarker era. It is generally considered the deadliest natural disaster ever recorded, and almost certainly the deadliest of the 20th century (when pandemics are discounted) and in Chinamarker. The human casualties are estimated from 3.7 million to 4 million.

Weather history

From 1928 to 1930 a long drought preceded the flood. By some accounts abnormal weather over central China began in the winter months of late 1930. Heavy snowstorms in the winter were followed by spring thaw/defrost with heavy rains that raised the river levels even higher. The rain increased into July and August of 1931. In July alone 7 cyclones hit the region. On average two occur per year.

Death toll, damages

3,700,000 ( 3.7 million ) - 4,000,000 ( 4 million ) people were killed in these floods. The damage toll is impossibly high to even estimate, easily costing billions of dollars rebuilding the city and recovering from the traumatic flood.

River===The Yellow Rivermarker has historically been considered the "Cradle of Chinese Civilization". Major floods in this river generally have catastrophic agricultural, economic and social impact. The Yellow River flood occurred between July to November 1931. Estimates of the number of people killed in the flood generally range from 1 to 2 million. Figures have shown about 1 million people died of drowning. Some listed the Yellow River death toll alone to be as high as 4 million.

The river completely inundated 87,000 km2. It partially inundated 20,000 km2, and left 80 million people homeless.

Yangtze River

The worst period was from July to August. In July alone, four weather stations along the Yangtze rivermarker reported rain totaling over for the month.

The casualties of the Yangtze river drainage region reached 145,000 and affected 28.5 million.

Huai river

The Yangtze along with the Huai river flood rendered Nanjingmarker city, capital of China at the time, an island in a massive flood zone. Millions died of drowning or from diseases such as cholera and typhus. Wives and daughters were sold, and local residents reported infanticide and cannibalism in stark details to the government. Some of the areas affected included Hubeimarker, Hunanmarker, Jiangximarker, Hankou, Wuhanmarker, Hanyang, Chongqingmarker. The high watermark was reached on August 19 at Hankou with the level exceeding above normal. Comparatively this is an average of above the Shanghai Bundmarker. On the evening of August 25 the water through the Grand Canal washed away dikes near Gaoyou lake. Some 200,000 people drowned in their sleep.

Government reactions

Republic era (1930s - 1940s)

The "Huai river conservancy Commission" is one example of a commission promoted by the Nationalist Government to address flood problems. Due to the Second Sino-Japanese war, the Chinese Civil War and the lack of funding, the government only emphasized on small dams along the Yangzte river.

People's Republic era (post 1950)

In 1953 Mao Zedong took a trip to the Yangzte river and said:

Scientists and officials who raised doubts, like Chen Mingshu, were persecuted as rightists. Li Siguang, a prominent scientist and minister of geological resources, told Mao he would commit suicide if he could not stop the construction of the Three Gorges Dammarker project.

The project did not move beyond planning stage in the Mao era due to Sino-Soviet conflicts and other events of the 1960s such as the Great Leap Forward. China also did not have the resource to build such a dam at the time. The project was restarted in the 1980s and the dam was completed in 2009.

Other floods to follow

See also


  1. Pietz, David. [2002] (2002). Engineering the State: The Huai River and Reconstruction in Nationalist Chine 1927-1937. Routledge. ISBN 0415933889. pg xvii, pg 61-70
  2. NOAA News Online (Story 334b)
  3. NOVA Online | Flood! | Dealing with the Deluge
  4. Glantz, Mickey. Glantz, Michael H. [2003] (2003). Climate Affairs: A Primer. Island Press. ISBN 1559639199. pg 252.
  5. 中国水利网
  6. Winchester, Simon. [2004] (2004). The River at the Center of the World: A Journey Up the Yangtze, and Back in Chinese Time. Macmillan. ISBN 0312423373.
  7. Li, Cheng. Barnett, Arthur Doak. [1997] (1997). Rediscovering China: Dynamics and Dilemmas of Reform. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 0847683389. pg 168-169.
  8. Kueh, Y. Y. [1995] (1995). Agricultural Instability in China, 1931-1991: Weather, Technology, and Institutions. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198287771. pg 182.

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