A severe flood of the Red River in North Vietnam kills an estimated 100,000 people on this day in 1971. This remarkable flood was one of the century’s most serious weather events, but because the Vietnam War was going on at the time, relatively few details about the disaster are available. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) compiled a list of the 20th century’s top weather and climate events, based upon their natural wonder and impact on people. On the list were such major disasters as the Bangladesh cyclones of 1970 and 1991, both of which killed more than 100,000 people.
The “Great Smog of London” of 1952 and the 1972 blizzard in Iran also made the list. Notably, not a single incident occurring in North American was included. The Red River flood in North Vietnam made NOOA’s list even though relatively little is known about how or why approximately 100,000 people perished in the disaster. During the Vietnam War, information from North Vietnam was neither plentiful nor reliably accurate. What is known is that the Red River, which runs near the capital city of Hanoi, experienced a “250-year” flood.
Torrential rains simply overwhelmed the dyke system around the heavily populated delta area, which is not far above sea level. As well as directly killing thousands of people, the flood also wiped out valuable crops, causing further hardship, especially as it occurred during wartime. Though many more reservoirs have since been built in the Hanoi region, the area remains vulnerable to flooding.