Floods are one of the strongest forces of nature. While ancient Egyptian civilizations considered it a blessing, floods have wreaked havoc throughout human history. Regions prone to floods have witnessed the loss of countless lives and destruction of the infrastructure and properties time and again. Here we take a look at the top 10 deadliest floods in the world – the ones that claimed maximum lives.
Top 10 deadliest floods in the world history
Scientists have warned that we would see more frequent and more devastating floods in the future due to global warming. Heavy rains, dam failures, storm surges, and sometimes man-made changes cause massive floods claiming thousands of lives. It’s worth pointing out that not all deaths that occur during floods are caused by drowning. It’s the starvation, famine, and diseases in the aftermath of the flood that cause maximum fatalities.
Here are the top 10 deadliest floods in the known history:
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10- North Sea flood, The Netherlands (1212)
The Netherlands is one of the biggest victims of floods. The country is formed by the estuaries of the Rhine, the Scheldt, and the Meuse river. The North Sea flood began in June 1212 and ended more than six months later. It is estimated to have claimed about 60,000 lives. Hundreds of thousands of people had to leave their houses. It also caused irreparable damage to properties and infrastructure. It took the Netherlands more than two years to recover from the North Sea flood.
9- St. Lucia’s flood, The Netherlands (1287)
St. Lucia’s flood on December 12, 1287 killed between 50,000 and 80,000 people in the Netherlands and North Germany. Before the massive flood, there was almost no water in any of the Netherlands’ lakes. The flood was triggered by a combination of a high spring tide, a windstorm, and low pressure. It destroyed several villages and small towns. St. Lucia flood changed the history of the Netherlands. It destroyed all the villages between the sea and the village of Amsterdam. By the time the floods subsided, the inland village of Amsterdam had become a coastal town. It led to the development of Amsterdam into the great city as we know it today.
8- Jiangsu-Anhui flood / Yangtze river flood, China (1911)
The Yangtze is the third longest river on the planet, and the longest to flow entirely within a country. The 3,917 miles long river is the primary source of transportation and irrigation in China. The Jiangsu-Anhui flood in 1911 occurred when the Yangtze and the Huai rivers began flooding at the same time. It claimed up to 100,000 lives, left about 375,000 people homeless, and caused severe property loss.
7- Red River Delta flood, North Vietnam (1971)
When it occurred in 1971, the Red River Delta flood didn’t get as much international attention as it deserved because it was overshadowed by the Vietnam War. It claimed more than 100,000 lives, mostly in the city of Hanoi. It took Vietnam several years to recover from the disaster, primarily because the government and the people in the war-torn nation were already staring at severe hardship.
6- St. Felix’s flood, The Netherlands (1530)
The flood gets its name because it occurred on the name day of St. Felix. It wiped out over a dozen villages and several towns. An estimated 120,000 people were killed and properties worth more than 100 million euros were destroyed. Because of this flood, November 5, 1530 came to be known as Evil Saturday in Dutch history. It is by far the deadliest flood in European history.
5- Yangtze river flood, China (1935)
The 1935 Yangtze river flood killed more than 145,000 people and left millions of people homeless. The flood brought with itself massive famine and deadly diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, and dermatitis throughout the river valley. The Yangtze river witnesses seasonal flooding quite often but most of the time it’s not deadly. The 1931 flood was still fresh in the minds of people when the 1935 flood ruined everything that they had rebuilt since the 1931 flood.
4- Typhoon Nina / Banqiao dam failure, China (1975)
The Banqiao dam on the Ru River failed on August 8th, 1975 due to the Typhoon Nina. The initial flood instantly killed more than 86,000 people. Another 145,000 people were killed due to starvation and diseases. Typhoon Nina brought in more than a year of rainfall in just 24 hours, which the weather forecasters failed to predict. The collapse of the Banqiao dam led to the failure of many other smaller dams nearby.
3- Yellow River flood, China (1938)
The 1938 Yellow River flood killed an estimated 800,000 people in China. Shocking, the flood was artificially created by the Chinese Nationalist Government during the second Sino-Japan war. The Japanese forces were marching on and the Chinese government needed to stop them. So, they destroyed the dikes on the Yellow River, letting the water flow freely through different provinces. Unfortunately for the Chinese, the Japanese forces were way out of the range of the flood. It means almost all the victims of the flood were Chinese citizens. The Chinese government had denied its involvement in the flooding until Japan accepted defeat in 1945.
2- Yellow River flood, China (1887)
While the 1938 flood was deliberately triggered by the Chinese government, the Yellow River had witnessed a flood of even bigger proportion on September 28th, 1887. It is estimated to have killed between 900,000 and 2 million people. About 2 million people were left homeless. Agricultural lands and several small towns were completely destroyed. No wonder the Yellow River has been nicknamed “China’s Sorrow.”
1- 1931 China floods, China
By far the deadliest flood in the known history of humanity. A 2-year-long drought was followed by heavy snowstorms, even heavier rains and high cyclone activity. By July 1931, three of the biggest rivers in China (Yangtze, Yellow River, and Huai) were flowing above their maximum limits. It is estimated to have killed 1 million to 4 million people, mostly due to famine and diseases. The floods destroyed crops and the polluted water brought infectious diseases such as dysentery and typhoid to the masses. It was after the 1931 floods that the Chinese government realized the importance of an effective disaster management system. The country later set up the Efficient Disaster Management System to deal with any such natural disasters.