This Day in History: China's Deadliest Maritime Disaster

By Ned Kelly, December 4, 2019

1 0

On December 4, 1948 SS Kiangya sank, the world’s worst maritime disaster unrelated to military action at the time. The passenger steamship blew up in the mouth of the Huangpu River 80 kilometers north of Shanghai. The suspected cause of the explosion was the ship hitting a mine left behind by the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II, destroying her stern.

The Kiangya had a displacement of 2,100 tons and was packed with refugees from the Chinese Civil War. The exact death toll is unknown; her official capacity was 1,186, but 2,150 passengers were listed on the manifest (and she was almost certainly carrying many stowaways). Rescuers were unaware of the catastrophe for some hours. It is thought that between 2,750 and 3,920 perished, over twice as many as when the Titanic went down in 1912.

It wasn’t until some four decades later, on December 20, 1987, when the passenger ferry Doña Paz collided with oil tanker Vector in the Philippines - the resulting fire and sinking leaving an estimated 4,341 dead - that the world was to witness worse.


For more This Day in History stories, click here.

more news

This Day in History: The Funeral of Ruan Lingyu

The Shanghainese silent film star had taken her own life at the age of just 24.

This Week in History: When Charlie Chaplin Came to China

The King of Comedy's fly-by 1936 visit to the Pearl of the Orient.

This Day in History: Palace of Sino-Soviet Friendship Completed

The 'wedding cake' still stands today with a Soviet star atop its gilded spire.

This Day in History: 'Learn from Lei Feng Day' Campaign Begins

On March 5, 1963, Chairman Mao initiated the 'Follow the examples of Comrade Lei Feng' propaganda campaign.

This Day in History: Nixon Signs Shanghai Communique

On February 27, 1972, President Richard Nixon and Premier Zhou Enlai signed the Shanghai Communique, a document that has remained the basis for Sino-American relations ever since.

This Day in History: The 2007 China Stock Market Crash

On February 27, 2007 the 'Shanghai Sneeze' triggered major drops in worldwide stock markets.

This Day in History: Haicheng Earthquake Prediction World First

On February 4, 1975, Chinese authorities claim to be the first to successfully predict an earthquake.

0 User Comments

In Case You Missed It…

We're on WeChat!

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

7 Days in Shanghai With thatsmags.com

Weekly updates to your email inbox every Wednesday

Subscribe

Download previous issues

Never miss an issue of That's Shanghai!

Visit the archives

Get the App. Your essential China city companion.