1931 China Floods Facts: How Nature Killed and Left Millions of People Homeless
In 1931 in China happened the largest flood in the world. The 1931 China floods death toll was more than 4 million. The economic impact of the 1931 China floods was tremendous. It took several years for China to recover. The background to this terrible event is related to adverse weather conditions that occurred between 1928 and 1930.
Let us get back to the cold winter of 1930, there were severe snowstorms, and in the spring there were heavy rains and a thaw. Consequently, there was a quick rise in the level of water of the Yangtze and Huang He rivers. The rivers rapidly overflowed their banks and reached Nanjing- the Chinese former capital. With the flood came diseases, water spread around cholera, typhoid, and many others.
Therefore, that was a case of numerous deaths: people died of infections, other people just drowned. The terrible stories of infanticide and cannibalism among the inhabitants have been recorded. People that days have lost hope of salvation and the only way not to die was this cruel act. Chinese scientific sources state that the Central China flood in 1931 has taken about 150 thousand people’s lives, while Western historians insist on 4 million deaths. To know more about 1931 China floods facts, continue reading the article!
“China’s Grief”: How the Chinese Got Along with the Deadly River before the Great Flood of 1931?
It is not for nothing that the Huang He is called the “Yellow River,” a color is given by the abundance of sediment in its waters. The river has high salt content, up to 60 percent. But this river has another name – “the grief of China”. The fact is that millions of tons of mud suffocate the body of water and a huge amount of water is forced to find its way to the sea. According to various sources, the Huang He has been widely flooded about 1,500 times over the past 3,000-4,000 years, and its channel has changed at least five times (or even, according to some sources, 26 times) from 602 BC to the present.
Thus, according to the ancient Chinese chronicles, a major flood in 11 years led to the fall of the Xin dynasty. In 1194 the Huang He took a new course for the next 700 years – it ended up blocking the mouth of the Huaihe River, causing a flood and leaving thousands of people homeless. And the 1887 flood on the North China Plain killed approximately 2 million people, according to various estimates. However, it is nothing in comparison with 1931 China floods damage.
Unfortunately, the flat topography of the Great China Plain contributes to disasters. So when there is a flood, part of the population immediately drowned, and those who remained- suffer from starvation and disease.
For centuries, the Chinese tried to control the treacherous river, building dams and dykes, breaking through canals. But all to no avail. Some historians believe the silt was the cause of the Huang He flood in 1931. Others blame the dams themselves, which, on the contrary, provoke flooding. Others blame the freezing of the headwaters in Inner Mongolia with the formation of ice dams, accompanied by the release of huge amounts of water.
1931 China Floods How Did It Happen?
This tragedy was preceded by a series of natural disasters. From 1928 to 1930, the People’s Republic of China had to suffer a prolonged drought, and the previous winter of 1930 had been particularly severe, with large accumulations of ice and snow in the area of mountains. At the beginning of 1931, all this mass began to melt and flow down. A huge mass of water reached the middle of the Yangtze River during a heavy spring rain. Usually, the region experienced three floods each in spring, summer, and fall, but in early 1931 there was a single, but a huge flood. By June, because of the Yangtze River flood 1931 in low-lying areas, residents were forced to move out of their homes.
The summer was also marked by the extreme activity of cyclones. In July of 1931, 9 cyclones, which strongly hit the region (there were usually 2 cyclones per year). Chinese weather stations, located along the Yangtze River, have reported more than 600 mm of rain for the month.
The water level of the Yangtze reached its highest level since the mid-19th century, which is considered to be the record rise in water level. And in the fall, heavy rains exacerbated the situation, and some rivers did not return to normal flow until November.
By July 1931, three of the country’s largest rivers, the Yangtze, the Huaihe, and the Huang He, had all burst their banks. In fact, it was already a sea that washed away villages, cities, and farmers in its path. Soon the water reached the former capital city of Nanjing, broke the dams, and almost completely destroyed the city.
Gaoyu County was one of the centers of the 1931 China flood. According to the recollections of eyewitnesses, on August 26, a strong wind struck one of China’s largest lakes, Gaoyu-hu. It caused such waves that destroyed the dams with the power of a tsunami. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that the lake was located above a residential structure, so the torrents of water gushed over the houses where unsuspecting people were peacefully sleeping. As a result, 19,000 people in Gaoyu County alone drowned and 58,000 subsequently died of starvation and disease. To commemorate this, a memorial museum was founded in Gaoyu in 2003.
How Long Did the 1931 Yellow River Flood Last?
Officially, the Yellow river flood of 1931 has lasted for three months, however, several scientists argue, that all events, that happened before may also be counted as a trigger for the main natural disaster. The flood (or should it be said a series of disasters) inundated an area of about 200 thousand square kilometers, which can be compared to the territory of England and half of Scotland. Waterways throughout much of the country were flooded, especially on the Huang He and the Grand Canal. At least eight provinces were severely affected. But, unfortunately, it was not limited to rivers bursting their banks.
The Cost of 1931 China Flood: Famine, Disease, Refugees
The 1931 flood paralyzed life in Central and Northern China for a long time: in some places, the water did not come down for three to six months. 1931 China floods recovery took very long for the Chinese economy to get back to normal. At the time, the government estimated that nature had affected more than 25 million people. But modern historians believe that as many as 53 million may have been affected.
Up to 1931, China’s floods information, the disaster demolished an enormous number of farmland and people`s housing. For example, the cost of the 1931 China floods in Central China for agriculture is counted in about 15% losses of the rice, tea, and wheat crops. This led to a rapid rise in the prices of necessities, and people went hungry. The total Yangtze river flood in 1931 economic cost was about 1.5 of the net income of one family per year.