On this day, one of the greatest natural disasters in modern history occurred in China in terms of fatalities. It remained virtually unknown for a long time and only really became known to the world public in 1995 through the organization Human Rights Watch.
One of the deadliest weather disasters
It is Typhoon Nina (in the Philippines it was named Bebeng). The storm formed over the open Pacific Ocean on June 30, subsequently shifting westward with steady strengthening. It became a Category 4 storm on August 2, and hit Taiwan with a Category 3 the following day. Nina weakened considerably over the island, then crossed the Formos Strait and finally hit China as a tropical storm in Fujian Province. In this area, damage was initially limited. Nina moved further inland across Jiangxi Province, becoming weaker but also slower. It brought widespread large amounts of rain.
Fig. 1: Track of Typhoon Nina in 1975; Source: Wikipedia
Finally, the storm's remnants reached Hunan Province, where widespread rainfall reached 400 mm. However, the most intense rain fell in the area of the Banqiao reservoir, the largest and highest flood reservoir in the region with 492 million cubic meters. A total of 1631 mm of rain fell here, an incredible 830 mm of it within 6 hours! This lake is dammed by the Banqiao Dam. After its completion in 1952, it was considered a masterpiece and indestructible, earning the nickname "Iron Dam". However, design flaws soon became apparent. Due to persistent thundery heavy rain, the level rose rapidly, and on August 6 , the water finally reached the top of the dam. Staff attempted to open the sluices to relieve the situation, but this was prevented by deposited sediment. In the night of August 8, the water level was already 30 cm above the dam crest. Shortly after midnight, the Shimantan Dam, located a little further north, burst, and half an hour later the Banqiao Dam finally burst as well. According to reports, a 10-kilometer-wide and up to 7-meter-high flood wave formed, which now caused more and more dams to collapse in the form of a cascade effect. A total of 62 dams were destroyed that night. The water masses flooded the plains of Henan over an area of 12,000 square kilometers, drowning around 85,000 people. In the days and weeks that followed, this event claimed well over 100,000 more lives through epidemics and famine. In total, it is estimated that between 230,000 and 240,000 people died. This is on the same scale as the devastating tsunami on December 26, 2004! For two decades, this catastrophe remained almost unknown due to China's news control and only became really public in 1995, as already mentioned above.
Typhoon Doksuri 2023
Typhoon Doksuri occupied the Philippines and China at the end of July. The comparison with the track of Nina from 1975 shows a great similarity. Doksuri strengthened into a tropical storm on July 21. Between July 24 and 25, Doksuri reached Category 4, becoming a super typhoon for a short time. It passed just north of the Philippines and moved through the South China Sea.On July 28, it reached China. Here, the system weakened rapidly in terms of wind, but continued to bring very heavy rain. In Beijing, about 500 mm of rain fell within 24 hours, and in the western districts, 959 mm fell within 90 hours! Since records began 140 years ago, this was the heaviest rainfall. The result was catastrophic flooding and enormous damage. There were also fatalities, but the number of fatalities varies.
Fig. 2: Train path of Typhoon Doksuri 2023; Source: Wikipedia
Currently, Tropical Storm Khanun is in the forefront in the region. For a long time it looked like another landfall as a typhoon in China, here as well as in Taiwan there was already heavy rain. In the meantime, however, Khanun has weakened and will take a different track. Currently it is located off the southern tip of Japan, in the coming hours it will move northward towards South Korea. Here it will hit the very densely populated coastal region tomorrow. The country is already making preparations. The largest Scout camp in the world, the Jamboree taking place in Saemangeum, is also affected. The camp would originally have lasted until August 12, but now has to be canceled due to Khanun. 43,000 Scouts leave early.
Fig. 3: Calculated track of Typhoon/Tropical Storm Khanun; Source: Joint Typhoon Warning Center