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Floods played havoc in 50 countries in five centuries

Sabir Shah
Tuesday, August 06, 2013 
From Print Edition
LAHORE: Still reeling from the adverse effects of the deadly July 2010 floods, which had claimed over 2,000 lives and had directly affected about 20 million people mostly by destruction of property, livelihood and infrastructure, Pakistan is again bracing up for yet another catastrophe of similar nature in 2013.
In 2010, approximately one-fifth of Pakistan’s total land was underwater as heavy monsoon rains had lashed the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan regions, making the then United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon publicly state that the flood was the worst disaster he had ever seen.
Just to recap, Ban Ki-moon had initially asked for $460 million for emergency relief, though only 20 percent of the relief funds requested had been received by August 15, 2010, mainly because the donors were unhappy with the poor handling of international donations and charities after the October 8, 2005, earthquake had rocked the country.
Remember, the World Health Organisation had reported in 2010 that over 10 million Pakistanis were forced to drink unsafe water due to the floods.
Pakistan’s Finance Ministry, Ball State University of America’s Centre for Business and Economic Research, numerous local and international media outlets had estimated three years ago that the total economic impact of the 2010 floods might well have been to the tune of $43 billion, which included $4 billion damage to structures and over $500 million wheat crop losses.
History tells us that the1950 Pakistan floods had killed 2,910 people while the 1992 Pakistan and Northern India monsoons had left 1,834 human bodies flowing with the ruthless water tides.
A cumbersome research conducted by ‘The News International’ reveals that during the last five centuries or so, over 50 countries—both developed and under-developed— have been badly hit by massive flooding, resulting in huge loss of life, damage to buildings, bridges, ruining and choking of sewerage systems, roadways and canals.
It goes without saying that floods anywhere across the globe have also subsequently led to the spread of various waterborne diseases like typhoid, diarrhoea and cholera.
The countries that have experienced worst flooding since the 16th century include China, Norway, Holland, Japan, United States, Spain, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Algeria, Italy, Haiti, Dominican Republic, North Korea, Mozambique, Colombia, South Korea, Tunisia, Portugal, Malawi, Brazil, Argentina, Yemen, Mexico, Sudan, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Hungary, Jordan, Tajikistan, Ecuador, El Salvador, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Poland, Czech Republic, Lebanon, Thailand, Malaysia, Guatemala, North Vietnam, Germany, Denmark, Venezuela, Iran, Russia, Central Europe, Peru, Nepal, Afghanistan, Philippines, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Belgium and United Kingdom.
Here follows a list of some of the deadliest global floods that have caused most number of fatalities during the last 500 years or so:
According to an American commercial broadcasting television network National Broadcasting Company (NBC)’s research report “Worst natural disasters in history,” the 1931 China floods had led to a death toll ranging between 2.5 million and 3.7 million—the largest loss of human lives ever recorded in a single natural calamity of the kind.
A glance through books like ‘The World’s Largest Floods, past and present: Their causes and magnitudes’ by Jim O’Connor and John Costa (published by the US Department of Interior and US Geological Survey), one finds that the 1887 Yellow River (Huang He) flood in China had claimed between 0.9 million and 02 million lives and the 1938 flooding in the same Chinese river had made between 0.5 million and 0.7 million humans perish.
In 1975, the Banqiao Dam failure in China had claimed 86,000 lives while another 145,000 had died owing to subsequent diseases. The net death tally was thus put at 231,000.
The December 26, 2004, Indian Ocean tsunami or the Indonesian tsunami had triggered a series of devastating tsunamis along the coasts of most landmasses bordering the Indian Ocean, killing over 230,000 people in 14 countries.
The disaster had also inundated coastal communities with waves rising up to 30 metres. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in the recorded history. Indonesia was the hardest-hit country, followed by Sri Lanka, India and Thailand.
The 1935 Yangtze River flood in China had caused 145,000 deaths.
The 6,418 kilometre-long Yangtze River is the longest river in Asia and the third longest in the world, draining one-fifth of the land area of the People’s Republic of China. Along with the Yellow River, the Yangtze is the most important river in the history, culture and economy of China.
Holland has had some worst floods during the last five centuries.
For example, the St Felix’s Flood of November 1530, over one hundred thousand people were washed away by the merciless waters.
According to Audrey Lambert’s book “The Making of the Dutch landscape: A historical geography of the Netherlands,” a large part of the country was literally washed away in this disaster.
Similarly, the 1971, the Hanoi and the Red River Delta flood in North Vietnam had led to a loss of over one hundred thousand lives.
The 1911 Yangtze River flood in China again had killed 145,000 people.
The 1949 Eastern Guatemala flood had sent over 40,000 people to their graves.
The 1939 Tianjin floods in China had left 20,000 dead, and the 1954 Yangtze floods had killed another 30,000 Chinese.
In 1980, the Sichuan floods in China had killed some 6,200 people, and the 1951 Manchuria floods in this country had accounted for 4,800 precious lives.
The 1989 Sichuan floods in China had killed 3,814 people while another 1,723 people had lost their lives in the 1991 floods.
Similarly, some 1,348 more Chinese lives were lost during the 1995 flooding, more than 1,100 Chinese had met unnatural flood-related deaths in 2004, and over 1,100 had to perish due to the same cause in 2010.
The North Sea flood of 1953 had killed 2,142 people in Belgium, England and Holland (combined). The 1974 Bangladesh monsoon rain had claimed 28,700 lives.
The 1961 Bihar floods in India had killed over 1,000 people.
The 1999 Vargas mudslide in Venezuela had killed 20,006 people.
The 1927 Algerian floods had killed between 2,000 and 3,000 humans.
The 1963 Vajont Dam flood in Italy had killed 1,909 people. The Great Iran flood of 1954 had killed 10,000 Iranians.
The 1824 St Petersburg flood in Russia had washed away 10,000 Russians and the 2013 North India floods had killed 6,500 hapless inhabitants of the country.
The 1968 Rajasthan and Gujarat monsoon rains in India had killed 4,892 humans and the 1943 Rajputana floods had claimed between 5,000 and 10,000 lives.
The 1998 Eastern India, Bangladesh monsoon rains had killed 3, 838 people.
In United States, which has also been a home to many water-related tragedies, the 1889 Johnstown Flood had killed 2,209 people.
The 1953 Japan flood had left 2,566 dead and the 2009 Jeddah Torrential rains in Saudi Arabia had killed 123 people who had found themselves struggling in the middle of the flooded areas.
Japan was also struck by floods in 1868, 1938 and 1957, which had collectively claimed around 3,000 lives.
The 1962 Barcelona flash floods in Spain had killed over 900 people.
In 2011, some 894 Brazilians had succumbed to floods.
The 2006 North Koran floods had led to 844 deaths and the 1941 floods in Peru had claimed 5,000 lives. And the list goes on!
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