THE FAR EAST: The Rains Came

In Asia the heavens opened, the earth rumbled, and millions suffered under the pestilences of a hard season.

Formosa. When Clerk Tsai Yung-ting awoke at 2 a.m., the rain had been falling for hours on the sleeping coastal village of Houlung. Too late, he rushed down to the sea wall—to find the dike watchmen asleep and the water pouring through. By the time he got back to rouse the sleeping village, the torrent was already waisthigh. That night Tsai and 29 others of Houlung's 100 people died.

Most of Formosa's 10 million population are...