1887 Yellow River flood

The 1887 Yellow River flood was a devastating flood on the Yellow River (Huang He) in China. This river is prone to flooding due to the elevated nature of the river, running between dikes above the broad plains surrounding it. The flood, which began in September 1887, killed at least 900,000 people. The highest estimated death toll is 2,000,000.[1][2] It was one of the deadliest natural disasters ever recorded.[3]


For centuries, the farmers living near the Yellow River had built dikes to contain the rivers, which over time flowed higher because, not allowed to flood, they had to deposit their silt on the riverbed. In 1887, this rising river, swollen by days of heavy rain, overcame the dikes on around 28 September, causing a massive flood. Since there is no international unit to measure a flood's strength it is usually classified by the extent of the damage done, depth of the water, and the number of casualties.

The waters of the Yellow River are generally thought to have broken through the dikes in Huayuankou, near the city of Zhengzhou in Henan province. Owing to the low-lying plains near the area, the flood spread very quickly throughout Northern China, covering an estimated 50,000 square miles (130,000 km2), swamping agricultural settlements and commercial centers. After the flood, two million were left homeless.[2] The resulting pandemic and lack of basic essentials claimed as many lives as those lost directly to the flood. It was one of the worst floods in history, though the later 1931 Yangtze-Huai River flood may have killed as many as four million.[4]


  1. ^ https://listverse.com/2007/09/07/top-10-deadliest-natural-disasters/
  2. ^ a b Encyclopedia of Disasters: Environmental Catastrophes and Human Tragedies, Angus M. Gunn, 2007, chapter 35: 'Yellow River China flood 1887', pp. 141–144 (this source quotes the figure of 900,000, and 2 million homeless, though some sources give other figures)
  3. ^ Hough, Peter (2008). "8: Natural Threats to Security". Understanding Global Security. Routledge. p. 198. ISBN 9781135042011.
  4. ^ Trimble, Stanley Wayne (2007). Encyclopedia of Water Science. CRC Press. p. 383. ISBN 978-0-8493-9627-4.

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