Huang He – the «Great Sorrow of China»- this is how the locals have called the Yellow River for centuries up till now. The Chinese name translates as “Woe of the Sons of Khan,” indicating the fact that this river is famous for its frequent and horrible flooding, one of which was the Huang He flood 1887. Over the past four millennia, the river has breached levees more than 1,500 times, flooding farmland, villages, and entire cities. As a result, tens of millions of people have died, an equal number have gone missing, and the material damage has amounted to hundreds of billions of dollars.
According to UNESCO statistics, about 200,000 people have died from river floods in the last 20 years (not counting the victims of floods caused by tropical cyclones). Disaster rivers include the Amazon in Brazil, the Amur in Russia, the Arno and Po in Italy, the Ganges and Brahmaputra in India, the Mississippi and Missouri in the United States, and the Yangtze and Huang He in China. However, this data is nothing compared with the Yellow river flood 1887 death toll.
One of China’s main waterways, the Huang He, has been also called the «river of a thousand sorrows», as it has changed its course more than 20 times, flowing first into the Bohai Gulf, then into the Yellow Sea south of the Shandong Peninsula, and even into the East China Sea near the current mouth of the Yangtze. While changing direction, the river with its water flooded fields with crops, villages, and cities, killed people and livestock and caused epidemics and famine.
At the same time, Huang He is called the “Mother River” because it is the breadwinner of millions of people and it gives new life to the fields: the retreating water leaves a large part of the most fertile loess (silt) collected upstream. After all, each ton of loess contains considerable amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and calcium. The Yellow River is one of the world’s muddiest rivers: it carries about 26 kilograms of salt per cubic yard of water. During floods, the steam can carry up to 544 kg of silt per cubic yard, which is about 70% of its volume. The river carries about 1,500 tons of loess into the Yellow Sea each year. Because of the color of the water, it is also called the Yellow River. As we can see, this river is considered to be both vital and deadly for local Chinese people, but further, we will tell you about its evil part: Huang He river flood 1887.
The worst flood in modern human history occurred in the late spring of 1887 in the northern provinces of China, in the valley of the Yellow River. The Yellow River flood china 1887 length is considered to be up to three thousand miles. For many centuries, China’s most fertile agricultural plain draws its wealth from the waters of the Yellow River. Indeed, the Great Northern China Plain, which occupies most of Hunan, Hubei and Shandong provinces, was formed by thousands of years of sediment brought in by the waters of the Yellow River. It is an area where crops of corn, winter white wheat, vegetables, cotton, and kaolin are grown. This is where the backbone of China’s economy is created, here is the heart of China’s agriculture.
The river usually bursts its banks in the spring, causing numerous floods, of which there have been over 1,500 since 2297 B.C. But the 1887 flood is considered one of the most formidable floods.
Heavy rains in almost all of Hunan that spring caused the river to flood. The first flood occurred at a steep bend, near the city of Zhangzhou. Several generations earlier, the townspeople had erected a protective wall. It was the city’s way of protecting itself from the torrent that occasionally plagued it. But the wall failed and within seconds and the city was flooded by the rushing waters of six meters high.
Day after day the roiling waters of the Yellow River flood 1887 invaded the towns, destroying and devastating them. A total of 600 towns along the river banks, including the walled city of Hunan, are believed to be the effects of the Yellow river flood 1887. The rushing torrent continued to wash away fields, animals, cities, and people, flooding an area 70 kilometers wide with water that was up to 15 meters.
The flood brought death to 900 thousand people (according to other reports, about two million people drowned and starved to death). The waters of the Huang He flooded 80,000 km2 of land, which is approximately equal to the entire territory of Austria. Many villages were buried under a layer of silt, about seven million people were left homeless, thousands of people were missing.
The truth is that the flood was just the beginning, it did not stop in 1887, but lasted until 1889 with the devastation and desolation left behind after the water receded. Statistics have no clear number of casualties, as the following events (epidemics of diseases, famines, and cases of cannibalism ) should also be rewarded to that natural disaster. By 1889, when the Yellow River finally returned to its course, the disease had added to all the misery of the Yellow River flood 1887 facts. Half a million people are believed to have died of cholera.
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