MOO Reports:
River Flooding

Minor flooding on the Shannon, Ireland in 1998


After starvation and disease, flooding is the natural disaster caused by weather conditions which causes most deaths.

Historically, the worst flooding has mainly occurred in China. In 1931 China's two biggest rivers, the Huang He (Yellow River) and Yangtse. Estimates have put the death toll at well over 1 000 000 people! Tragically, a similar flood occurred only 43 years earlier in the Huang He valley when 900 000 people were reported drowned.

However, probably the worst flood in the history of mankind occurred in China well back in 1332. The flood killed an estimated 7 million people (equal to the population of London. Even more tragically, it is commonly believed that the devastation in China may have helped the dreaded 'Black Death' spread and move west where it was responsible for the deaths of over 1/3 of Europeans.

Large scale flooding is still possible in China. This has led the Chinese to start construction of China's second great wall, the 'Three Gorges Dam' on the Huang He. It will be the largest wall of concrete in modern history. The massive lake which will take decades to fill, will displace 4 million people (equivalent to the population of Ireland).

Because of far more developed emergency services, better heath care, good building quality, better understanding, better warning systems of flooding and flood prevention schemes, cost of flooding is often measured in currency and not human life. 

From April and all through the summer 1993, record heavy rain fell across the north part of the Mississippi drainage basin. This was partly caused by high pressure system around Bermuda. In the summer of 1993, the Mississippi River in the USA burst its banks. Dams burst and bridges were closed. By mid July 100 tributaries had flooded and the Mississippi spread across the flood plain for 10 - 25 kilometres. Nine states were affected. 26.5 million sandbags were used. Almost 70,000 people were evacuated from their homes. Final damage costs were estimated at $10 billion. Over 25% of this was crop losses. 

48 people died in the flood, very high for a developed country partly because of foolish flood prevention schemes which created flash floods. However, it is not comparable with the regular floods which occur in the developing world in countries such as Bangladesh made worse by climate change.

The by-product of all that water is invariably going to be wet feet! Keep them dry with a pair of wellies - and keep safe.

Phil Chilton and John Dray



. 1999-2003 Justin Taylor / John Dray

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