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A flood is a body of water that covers land which is normally dry. Floods are common natural disasters that can affect millions of people around the world. They destroy houses and buildings, and carry soil away from valuable farming land. Floods can also contaminate drinking water and lead to diseases. They are often caused by rivers, but overflowing lakes and seas can also cause flooding. Flooding has always been a part human history. Many ancient civilizations developed along waterways and rivers because people needed water for their fields. Floods are not always destructive natural events. Before the Assuan High Dam was built yearly floods in Egypt brought along nutrients and made the land around the Nile very fertile. Every year floods during the monsoon season in Bangladesh deposit fertile soil but also kill thousands of people and leave millions homeless. At least once a year the plains around large rivers are flooded. This is due to the amount of water that rivers bring with them, because of heavy rainfall or melting snow in the mountainous regions. Thunderstorms can cause flash floods, in which small rivers can swell quickly and carry up to ten times the normal amount of water. Rivers that flow slowly carry water, sand and silt. They build up their own beds, making them higher than the land around them. The Huang He, or Yellow River, in China and the Mississippi in North America are examples for such rivers. Flooding here builds up slowly but causes more damage because more land is affected. Coastal regions can also be affected by flooding. After earthquakes on the ocean floor tsunamis can bring up to 15-metre high waves and flood the coast many miles inland. In 2004, a devastating tsunami in the Indian Ocean killed over 250,000 people in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and other countries. Tropical storms, cyclones and hurricanes also lead to flooding. Hurricane Katrina caused a massive
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