At least 225 people in the Fiji Islands died as a result of the 1931 hurricane and flood, representing the largest loss of life from a natural disaster in Fiji's recent history. This paper explores the causes of disaster and the potential for recurrence. The disaster occurred because a rare event surprised hundreds of people-especially recently settled Indian farmers-occupying highly exposed floodplains in north-west Viti Levu island. The likelihood of a flood disaster of such proportions occurring today has been diminished by changed settlement patterns and building materials; however, a trend towards re-occupancy of floodplains, sometimes in fragile dwellings, is exposing new generations to flood risks. The contribution of this paper to the global hazards literature is set out in three sections: the ethnicity, gender and age of flood fatalities; the naturalness of disasters; and the merit of choice and constraint as explanations for patterns of vulnerability.