Water can be clear, cold and refreshing. You can drink it, bathe in it, swim in it and relax to its tranquil sounds. However, water can also become your worst enemy. It can sweep away your home, your belongings, destroying your entire town.
Let’s acknowledge International Water Day and remember the sheer power of this force of nature with the following thought-provoking facts about floods.
Fact 1: Water may seem harmless, but the refreshing beverage you drink every day can pick up trees, houses, bridges and cars. Actually, a car can be swept away in as little as 2 feet or 61 cm of water!
Fact 2: Despite the fact that our lives are imaginable without it, in large quantity water is an unstoppable destructive force that can pull dirt from under a building’s foundation, causing your house to crack and fall apart.
Fact 3: Only 40 centimeters of water can knock down a person!
Fact 4: In 2010 nearly ten years’ worth of rainfall fell on Pakistan in one week, leaving millions without homes. Enormous water levels didn’t only leave an effect on the people of Pakistan, but had a strange impact on the wildlife. Millions of spiders and other insects span ghostly cocoon-like webs, encasing trees located in a submerged farm field in the village of Sindh.
Fact 5: As floodwaters retreat, silt and mud is left behind. Hazardous materials, pesticides and sewage can be absorbed by the soil in these areas and can be harmful to human health. It is very important to wash your skin with disinfected water and soap if you happen to come in contact with flood water.
Fact 6: Even though floods are a nuisance and a threat to people throughout the world, in ancient times societies depended on heavy rain and flooding for crop growth. Floodplain valleys of the rivers Nile and Ganges were covered in tons of nutrient-rich silt deposits after annual flooding.
Fact 7: In the United States, floods take away more lives that the destructive forces of tornadoes and hurricanes.
Fact 8: Volcano eruptions have been directly or indirectly responsible for 5 out of 27 largest global floods. Namely, eruptions cause melting snow and ice which results in large quantities of water devastating communities surrounding the volcano. The largest such flood was recorded in Iceland in 1918.
Fact 9: The Yellow River in China is prone to floods and has suffered four of the deadliest flood events in world history. The floods of 1931 resulted in millions of people being killed.
Fact 10: In Tokyo, engineers have developed an underworld river system, a system of massive structures to protect the city against the force of nature. Fifty meters below the city, there are 6.4km of tunnels, water tanks, pillars and giant pumps that remove 200 tons of floodwater every second. This amazing engineering cost Japan billions of dollars but was a necessary expenditure for a country with a monsoonal climate and frequent typhoons.
Fact 11: Water snails are a rare species that actually need flooding to move from one location to another. These snails live in ditches in wet fields that flood in winter and this flooding is what enables young snails to inhabit new ditches.
Fact 12: The story of Noah’s ark is not the only flood story in the history of humankind. Like Noah, in the Greek version Deucalion built an ark to survive the floods that Zeus was going to send to punish people for their wickedness. Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha were the only ones to survive the flood and as a consequence they lived in solitude. Following the instructions of the Titan goddess of divine law and order Themis, Deucalion and Pyrrha threw stones over their shoulders onto Mother Earth eager to cure their loneliness. The stones Deucalion threw became men and those Pyrrha threw became women.
Fact 13: Floods can be caused by rain and although floods do not often feature in songs, songwriters particularly like the word rain. Since 1960 over 5,000 music albums contained at least one song with the word ‘rain’ in their title, perhaps because ‘rain’ rhymes with ‘pain’.