From the end of 20s, China was afflicted by a long drought. Abnormal weather over central China began in the winter of late 1930.
Heavy snowstorms in the winter were followed by a spring thaw and heavy rains that raised river levels significantly. The worst period of flooding was from July to August 1931. The Yangtze and Huai River floods soon reached Nanjing, the capital of China at the time. In July, nine cyclones hit the region, whereas on average only two occur per year. The consequences were catastrophic.
Millions died of drowning, starvation or from waterborne diseases (Cholera, typhus).
Estimates of total death toll range from 145,000 to 3.7 and 4 million.The event triggered a series of tragic consequences: “wives and daughters were sold by desperate residents, infanticides, and even cases of cannibalism were reported to the government. Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Wuhan and Chongqing were affected. The high-water mark was reached on 19 August 1931 at Hankou town in Wuhan, with the water level exceeding 53 ft (16 m) above normal.” [Wikipedia]
The Nationalist government led by the Guomintang party set up organizations such as the Huai River Conservancy Commission to address flood problems. Due the chaos of the Second Sino-Japanese War and the subsequent Chinese Civil War, the commissions were only able to construct small dams along the Yangtze River. After the end of the Civil War, in 1953 Mao Zedong traveled to Yangtze River to promote the Three Gorges Dam flood control project. [Wikipedia]
1954 Yangtze River Floods
“From June to September 1954, the Yangtze River Floods were a series of catastrophic floodings that occurred mostly in Hubei Province. Due to unusually high volume of precipitation as well as an extraordinarily long rainy season in the middle stretch of the Yangtze River late in the spring of 1954, the river started to rise above its usual level in around late June. Despite efforts to open three important flood gates to alleviate the rising water by diverting it, the flood level continued to rise until it hit the historic high of 44.67 m in Jingzhou, Hubei and 29.73 m in Wuhan. The number of dead from this flood was estimated at around 33,000, including those who died of plague by eating rotten bananas.” [Wikipedia]