The 1931 Central China floods or the Central China floods of 1931 were a series of floods that occurred during the Nanjing decade in the Republic of China era. It is generally considered the deadliest natural disaster ever recorded, and almost certainly the deadliest of the 20th century and in China. The human casualties are estimated from 145,000, to between 3.7 million to 4 million.
Death tolls and damages caused
Chinese sources usually indicate the death toll of the Yangtze river drainage at about 145,000 and affecting 28.5 million, while most western sources place the death toll from the floods at an estimation between 3.7 and 4 million people.
The Yellow River has historically been considered the “Cradle of Chinese Civilization”. Major floods in this river generally have catastrophic agricultural, economic and social impact. The Yellow River flood occurred between July and November 1931. Estimates of the number of people killed in the flood generally range from 1 to 2 million. Figures have shown about 1 million people died of drowning. Some listed the Yellow River death toll alone to be as high as 4 million.
The river completely inundated 87,000 km2 (20,000,000 acres). It partially inundated 20,000 km2 (5,000,000 acres), and left 80 million people homeless.
The worst period was from July to August. In July alone, four weather stations along the Yangtze river reported rain totaling over 2 ft (0.61 m) for the month.
The casualties of the Yangtze river drainage region reached 145,000 and affected 28.5 million.
The Yangtze along with the Huai river flood rendered Nanjing city, capital of China at the time, an island in a massive flood zone. Millions died of drowning or from diseases such as cholera and typhus. Wives and daughters were sold, and local residents reported infanticide and cannibalism in stark details to the government. Some of the areas affected included Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Hankou, Wuhan, Hanyang, Chongqing. The high watermark was reached on August 19 at Hankou with the level exceeding 53 ft (16 m) above normal. Comparatively this is an average of 5.6 ft (1.7 m) above the Shanghai Bund. On the evening of August 25 the water through the Grand Canal washed away dikes near Gaoyou lake. Some 200,000 people drowned in their sleep.