On August 19th 1931, the Yangtze River in China was causing chaos, having peaked the previous day, during a horrible flood that killed 3.7 million people directly and indirectly over the next several months. This was perhaps the worst natural disaster of the 20th century.
The Yangtze River runs through southern China, one of the most populated areas on Earth. The region’s people, most of whom lived at subsistence level, depended on the river for water for their personal and farming needs. In April, the river-basin area received far-above-average rainfall. When torrential rains came again in July, the stage was set for disaster. The Yangtze flooded over a 500-square-mile area. The rising waters drove 500,000 people from their homes by the beginning of August.
As the waters continued to rise in the first half of August and even more rain fell, the rice fields that dominated the…
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