China’s worst floods in decades

China’s worst floods in decades

  • Heavy rains are putting the Yangtze River at risk of repeating the devastating floods of 1998 which left more than 4,000 people dead and 14 million homeless.
  • The latest natural disaster comes in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and an escalating trade war with the US.

The Yangtze River is the longest river in Asia and China’s most important waterway, with some 175 cities located near its banks. As well as being home to a number of multinational companies, the prosperous Yangtze River Basin is a powerhouse of industrial output, generating nearly half of the country’s GDP.

High-risk flood regions

The middle and lower reaches of the river are vulnerable to flooding, spilling over their banks every summer. By contrast, the upper river basin flows through mountainous regions and the steep slope of the riverbed makes it far less prone to floods.

Floods large enough to overflow the dykes have caused several disasters in the past. Discounting famines and pandemics, the 1931 Central China floods are generally considered the deadliest natural disaster of the 20th century. More than 140,000 people drowned with at least 3.7 million dying over the nine months that followed.