Thailand floods pale beside five worst floods in history

A Thai family wades through flood waters in Bangkok, Thailand, Sunday, Oct. 30. Sakchai Lalit/AP

This year’s floods in Thailand, now threatening central Bangkok, have killed 437 people and done tens of millions of dollars’ worth of damage. But it is far from the worst flood in history.  By comparison, the deadliest US flood killed about 2,000 people, when the South Fork dam, upstream from Johnstown, Pa., collapsed on May 31, 1889, after unusually heavy rain. 

And even that pales beside the destruction wrought by the five deadliest floods in history – all of which took place in China. When did they happen, and just how deadly were they?

5. Hong and Ru rivers, 1975

  • close
    Silt is flushed from a dam at the Xiaolangdi Reservoir on the Yellow River in Henan province in 2011.
    REUTERS/China Daily
    View Caption
  • About video ads
    View Caption

In August 1975, freak rainstorms proved too much for two dams on the Hong and Ru rivers (part of the China's Yellow River system), which gave way, creating a wall of water 20 feet high and seven miles wide traveling at 30 miles an hour. Nearly 100,000 people were washed away and 11 million lost their homes.

1 of 5