This Day in History: The Central China Floods of 1931

By Ned Kelly, August 25, 2021

4 0

On the evening of August 25, 1931, the water through the Grand Canal washed away dikes near Gaoyou Lake, Anhui Province, drowning some 200,000 people in their sleep. It was just one chapter of the Central China floods of 1931, generally considered the deadliest natural disaster ever recorded.

From 1928 to 1930 central China had suffered a long drought. Heavy snow storms in the winter of 1930/31 were followed by heavy rains during the spring thaw, which only increased into the summer months. On average two cyclones occur per year in the region; nine hit in July alone.

Photo by Charles Lindbergh. He and his wife Anne played a pivotal role in the 1931 China Flood, performing aerial surveys of the Northern Jiangsu flood area.

The high watermark was reached on August 19 at Hankou, one of the three cities whose merging formed modern-day Wuhan, when levels were some 16 meters above normal (that’s higher than the buildings on the Shanghai Bund). When the flood reached the then capital Nanjing, it became an island in a massive flood zone.

Countless people died of drowning or from waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhus, while there were widespread reports of wives and daughters being sold, infanticide and cannibalism. The death toll is estimated at between 3.7 and 4 million people, with a further 30 million affected.

READ MORE: Explainer: Why China Experiences Reoccurring Floods


For more This Day in History stories, click here.

more news

This Day in History: Queen Elizabeth II Visits China

Joined by gaffe-prone 'Great Wally of China' Prince Philip.

This Day In History: Mao Coins Communist Slogan Serve the People

Though death befalls all men alike, it may be weightier than Mount Tai or lighter than a feather...

This Day In History: Small Sword Society Take Shanghai

Never underestimate an emaciated, opium smoking Cantonese ex-sugar broker...

This Day in History: First NBA Team to Play Basketball in China

On August 24, 1979, the Washington Bullets became the first professional US sports team invited to China.

This Day in History: Shanghai Jews Fleeing Nazi Persecution

The total number Jews arriving at the open port of Shanghai by sea and land between November 1938 and 1941 is estimated at 20,000.

This Day in History: The 2008 Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony

A look back at the first ever Olympics to be hosted in China.

This Day in History: The Founding of Shanghai’s Good 8th Company

The 8th Company of Shanghai Garrison, People's Liberation Army was founded on August 6, 1947, and since 1949 it has been stationed on Nanjing Lu.

This Day In History: Korean War's Operation Big Switch

The repatriation of remaining prisoners from both sides of the Korean War came with a few surprises.

0 User Comments

In Case You Missed It…

We're on WeChat!

Scan our QR Code at right or follow us at ThatsGuangzhou for events, guides, giveaways and much more!

7 Days in Guangzhou With thatsmags.com

Weekly updates to your email inbox every Wednesday

Subscribe

Download previous issues

Never miss an issue of That's !

Visit the archives