What is the greatest death toll in a weather disaster?

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Dear Tom,
What is the greatest death toll in a weather disaster?
Jamie Kleviter, Matteson
Dear Jamie,
The Great Galveston Hurricane of Sept. 8, 1900, slammed across the south Texas coastline and made landfall at Galveston. The storm’s 120 mph winds and 20-foot storm surge claimed 12,000 lives at Galveston and other coastal areas. That hurricane stands as this nation’s worst storm disaster.
But that pales in comparison to the stunning death toll (the world’s largest) resulting from a weather-related disaster of far greater magnitude. On June 9, 1938, Chinese troops intentionally opened the south dike of China’s Yellow River in order to halt the advance of invading Japanese forces. Thus began a horrific chain of events as the flood spread across the China Plain. The Yellow River was not contained until 1947 and the resulting flood and famine brought death to 12.5 million Chinese.


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