Natural disasters in China

China is one of the countries most affected by natural disasters. It had 5 of the world's top 10 deadliest natural disasters; the top 3 occurred in China: the 1931 China flood only 2 people died in the entire tsunami,

"Natural disasters occur frequently in China, affecting more than 200 million people every year. They have become an important restricting factor for economic and social development."[1]

In the course of recorded history, many types of natural disasters – except for volcanic eruptions – have occurred in China, including floods, droughts, meteorological, seismic, geological, maritime and ecological disasters as well as forestry and grassland fires.

These natural disasters pose serious threats to life and property safety to China and its people and severely affect the comprehensive, coordinated and sustainable development of that country's economy and society. In addition, they threaten China's national security and social stability and stand in the way of economic development in some regions and poverty alleviation of certain rural populations.

Natural disasters historically

Natural disasters reveals the traditional view of disasters as divine retribution: tianzai (天災), literally 'heavenly disaster'.

In ancient beliefs, natural disasters were seen as Heaven's response to immoral human behavior, whereby the conduct of different individuals carried different weights. While the behaviour of common people ranked last, the actions of bureaucrats had a greater effect.[2] Given that in Imperial China the emperor's behaviour was believed to be the most important, popular belief was that the emperor should attempt to prevent disasters by ensuring his conduct was in following with moral codes – and if a disaster should occur, he was responsible for addressing the consequences. According to the Overseas Development Institute, the state-led nature of humanitarian aid in today's China traces back to these traditional beliefs.[3] Chinese believed that natural disasters would foretell the end of a dynasty or the death of a great leader.

This concept of cosmic linkage between natural disasters and human conduct was radically rejected at the height of Maoist years, when nature was represented as ‘an enemy to be overcome, an adversary to be brought to heel’. Propaganda posters were produced with the slogan, "Earthquakes cannot frighten us, the people will certainly conquer nature."[4]

Floods and Typhoons

China has had 6 of the world's top 10 deadliest floods and landslides of all times; the top 5 all occurred in China. Estimated deaths in the 1931 China floods range between 2 million and 4 million, listed as the deadliest flood of all times, which is also the deadliest natural disasters of all times. The 1887 Yellow River flood ranked second in death toll in both flood and natural disaster, claiming lives of between 0.9 million to 2 million. The 1938 Yellow River flood was third, with 500,000–700,000 deaths.

After a record grain harvest of 466 million metric tons in 1995, another record crop of 475 million metric tons was expected in 1996. This yield was anticipated despite torrential summer rains throughout China that flooded 32,500 square kilometres (8 million acres) of cropland, caused thousands of deaths, left millions homeless, and cost billions of yuan in damage. The Yellow River crested at its highest recorded level, inspiring fears of a catastrophic dike breach. Nevertheless, over the past 50 years, natural disasters on average had reduced China's harvests by approximately 1% annually. Work proceeded on the world's largest flood-control and hydroelectric project, the controversial Three Gorges Dam on the Chang Jiang (Yangtze River) above Yichang. Chinese planners were considering huge water-diversification projects to channel excess water from the Chang Jiang to arid northern regions.


China had 3 of the top 10 world's most fatal earthquakes, including the 1556 Shaanxi earthquake that reportedly killed more than 830,000 people, listed as the deadliest earthquakes of all times and the third deadliest natural disaster. The 1976 Tangshan earthquake, with death toll estimated to be between 242,419 and 779,000, is ranked the third deadliest earthquake of all times, and 8th deadliest natural disaster. The 1920 Haiyuan earthquake killed 200,000 to 240,000, ranked the fourth deadliest earthquake and 9th deadliest of all natural disasters. The 2008 Sichuan earthquake that took lives of close to 70,000 was the greatest since 1976.

The People's Republic of China established a National Earthquake Administration in 1971 to take charge of monitoring, research, and emergency response for earthquakes. It was renamed China Earthquake Administration (CEA) in 1998, mandated by the Earthquake Prevention and Disaster Reduction Act of PRC[5] under the State Council. Each provincial, autonomous regional, and centrally administrated municipal government also has its own earthquake administration that is under the direction of CEA.[6]


China had 6 of the world's top 10 deadliest famines; the top two occurred in China. The CCP, at the time, officially blamed the Great Chinese Famine between 1958 and 1961 that killed between 20 million and 43 million on natural disasters. If this were true, it would be the #1 deadliest famine. Another famine that occurred in 1907 was said to have claimed 24 million lives, ranked as #2.

Emergency management

The National Disaster Reduction Center (NDRC) of the Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA) is a specialized agency under the Chinese Government engaged in information services and supporting decisions on various natural disasters. It provides reference for disaster-management departments in their decision-making and technical support for China's disaster-reduction undertakings by way of collecting and analyzing disaster information, assessing disasters and emergency relief, and analyzing and studying disasters using such advanced technology as satellite remote sensing.

See also


  1. ^ Disaster Emergency Management in China
  2. ^ Elvin, M. ‘Who Was Responsible for the Weather? Moral Meteorology in Late Imperial China’ Science, Technology, and Medicine in East and Southeast Asia, 1998
  3. ^ Krebs, Hanna B. "Responsibility, legitimacy, morality: Chinese humanitarianism in historical perspective", Overseas Development Institute, September 2014
  4. ^ Krebs, Hanna B. "Responsibility, legitimacy, morality: Chinese humanitarianism in historical perspective", Overseas Development Institute, September 2014
  5. ^ Chinese: 《中华人民共和国防震减灾法》
  6. ^ "Introduction to CEA (中国地震局:机构简介)" (in Chinese). Retrieved 2008-09-21.

External links

1931 China floods

The 1931 China floods, or the 1931 Yangtze–Huai River floods, were a series of devastating floods that occurred in the Republic of China. They were some of the deadliest floods in history, and together formed one of the most lethal natural disasters of the 20th century, excluding pandemics and famines. Estimates of the total death toll range from 422,499 to between 3.7 million and 4 million.

1956 Pacific typhoon season

The 1956 Pacific typhoon season has no official bounds; it ran year-round in 1956, but most tropical cyclones tend to form in the northwestern Pacific Ocean between June and December. These dates conventionally delimit the period of each year when most tropical cyclones form in the northwestern Pacific Ocean.

The scope of this article is limited to the Pacific Ocean, north of the equator and west of the international date line. Storms that form east of the date line and north of the equator are called hurricanes; see 1956 Pacific hurricane season. Tropical storms forming in the entire west Pacific basin were assigned a name by the Fleet Weather Center on Guam.

1998 China floods

The 1998 China floods (1998年中国洪水) lasted from middle of June to the beginning of September 1998 in China at the Yangtze River as well as the Nen River, Songhua River and the Pearl River.

2008 Sichuan earthquake

The 2008 Sichuan earthquake (Chinese: 汶川大地震; pinyin: Wènchuān dà dìzhèn; literally: 'Great Wenchuan earthquake'), also known as the Great Sichuan earthquake or Wenchuan earthquake, occurred at 14:28:01 China Standard Time on May 12, 2008. Measuring at 8.0 Ms (7.9 Mw), the earthquake's epicenter was located 80 kilometres (50 mi) west-northwest of Chengdu, the provincial capital, with a focal depth of 19 km (12 mi). The earthquake ruptured the fault for over 240 km (150 mi), with surface displacements of several meters. The earthquake was also felt in nearby countries and as far away as both Beijing and Shanghai—1,500 and 1,700 km (930 and 1,060 mi) away, respectively—where office buildings swayed with the tremor. Strong aftershocks, some exceeding 6 Ms, continued to hit the area up to several months after the main shock, causing further casualties and damage. The earthquake also caused the largest number of geohazards ever recorded, including about 200,000 landslides and more than 800 quake lakes distributed over an area of 110,000 km2 (42,000 sq mi).Over 69,000 people lost their lives in the quake, including 68,636 in Sichuan province. 374,176 were reported injured, with 18,222 listed as missing as of July 2008. The geohazards triggered by the earthquake are thought to be responsible for at least one third of the death toll. The earthquake left about 4.8 million people homeless, though the number could be as high as 11 million. Approximately 15 million people lived in the affected area. It was the deadliest earthquake to hit China since the 1976 Tangshan earthquake, which killed at least 240,000 people, and the strongest in the country since the 1950 Chayu earthquake, which registered at 8.5 on the Richter magnitude scale. It is the 18th deadliest earthquake of all time. On November 6, 2008, the central government announced that it would spend 1 trillion RMB (about US$146.5 billion) over the next three years to rebuild areas ravaged by the earthquake, as part of the Chinese economic stimulus program.

2019 South Asia floods

In mid-July 2019, monsoonal downpours caused widespread flooding and landslides across South Asia. As of 14 July, at least 89 people died across Bangladesh, China, India, and Nepal. Hardest-hit is Nepal, where at least 55 deaths occurred.

Banqiao Dam

The Banqiao Reservoir Dam (simplified Chinese: 板桥水库大坝; traditional Chinese: 板橋水庫大壩; pinyin: Bǎnqiáo Shuǐkù Dàbà) is a dam on the River Ru (汝河), a tributary of the Hong River in Zhumadian City, Henan province, China. Its failure in 1975 caused as many as 230,000 deaths. The dam was subsequently rebuilt.

The Banqiao dam and Shimantan Reservoir Dam (simplified Chinese: 石漫滩水库大坝; traditional Chinese: 石漫灘水庫大壩; pinyin: Shímàntān Shuǐkù Dàbà) are among 62 dams in Zhumadian that failed catastrophically or were intentionally destroyed in 1975 during Typhoon Nina.

Environmental issues in China

Environmental issues in China are plentiful, severely affecting the country's biophysical environment and human health. Rapid industrialisation, as well as lax environmental oversight, are main contributors to these problems.

The Chinese government has acknowledged the problems and made various responses, resulting in some improvements, but the responses have been criticized as inadequate. In recent years, there has been increased citizens' activism against government decisions that are perceived as environmentally damaging, and a retired official from the Communist Party of China has reported that the year of 2012 saw over 50,000 environmental protests in China.

Red Cross Society of China

The Red Cross Society of China (Chinese: 中国红十字会) is the national Red Cross Society in the People's Republic of China.

Tangjiashan Lake

Tangjiashan Lake (Chinese: 唐家山堰塞湖, literally "Tang's Mountain landslide dam-created lake") is a landslide dam-created lake on the Jian River, which was formed by the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Its name comes from the nearby mountain Tangjiashan. On May 24, 2008 the water level rose by 2 metres (6 ft 7 in) in a single day, reaching a depth of 23 metres (75 ft), just 29 metres (95 ft) below the barrier level. On June 9 2008, more than 250,000 people have been evacuated from Mianyang in anticipation of the Tangjiashan Lake dam bursting.A similar lake in the same province that formed 222 years earlier caused one of the worst landslide-related disasters in history. On June 10, 1786 a landslide dam on Sichuan's Dadu River, created by an earthquake ten days earlier, burst and caused a flood that extended 1400 km downstream and killed 100,000 people.A "relatively strong" aftershock on June 8, 2008 shook the massive earthquake-formed lake that has been threatening to flood more than 1 million people and triggered landslides in surrounding mountains. Soldiers used digging equipment, explosives, and even missiles to blast channels in the dam in an attempt to relieve the pressure behind it.The flow from the sluice channel cut into the dam increased dramatically on June 10, 2008, going from 300 cubic metres/second to 7000 cubic metres/second in the span of four hours. The muddy waters flowed rapidly downstream causing flooding in the evacuated town of Beichuan and overtopping of dams.In 2013 broken banks from a severe flood caused the lake's water to fall to 503 metres above sea level, 40 metres below its peak and 9 metres below its 2010 level. As water receded, the Xuanping town in the Beichuan Qiang Autonomous County was revealed.

The lake is now within the Beichuan Earthquake Museum. Landsat imagery from 2018 showed that the lake's size was greatly reduced do to natural erosion of the barrier and filling of the lake with sediment.

Yu the Great

Yu the Great (c. 2123 – 2025 BC), was a legendary ruler in ancient China who was famed for his introduction of flood control, his establishment of the Xia dynasty which inaugurated dynastic rule in China, and his upright moral character.The dates which have been proposed for Yu's reign predate the oldest-known written records in China, the oracle bones of the late Shang dynasty, by nearly a millennium. Yu's name was not inscribed on any artifacts which were produced during the proposed era in which he lived, nor was it inscribed on the later oracle bones; his name was first inscribed on vessels which date back to the Western Zhou period (c. 1045–771 BC).

The lack of anything which is remotely close to contemporary documentary evidence has caused some controversy over the historicity of Yu. Proponents of the historicity of Yu theorise that stories about his life and reign were orally transmitted in various areas of China until they were eventually recorded during the Zhou dynasty, while opponents of it believe that the figure existed in legend in a different form—as a god or a mythical animal—during the Xia dynasty, and morphed into a human figure by the start of the Zhou dynasty. Many of the stories about Yu were collected in Sima Qian's famous Records of the Grand Historian. Yu and other "sage-kings" of Ancient China were lauded for their virtues and morals by Confucius and other Chinese teachers.Yu is one of the few Chinese rulers who is posthumously honored with the epithet "the Great".



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