You need hardly open a newspaper these days to be acutely aware that natural disasters are becoming a more frequent, devastating reality with which today's global community is threatened. Many of the world's cities most at risk are located in coastal areas, making them particularly vulnerable to flooding, tsunamis, earthquakes, storms and other natural disasters. With over half the world's population living in urban areas and a vast majority of businesses thriving in these cities, many at-risk areas have 'all of their eggs in one basket', so to speak. Natural catastrophe is a huge threat to life, infrastructure, and to a nation's long-term economic well-being.
This list has been drawn up according to data provided by Swiss Re (a Swiss reinsurance company) assessing the most severe natural disasters that 616 of the largest urban areas in the world are facing. In order to rank them, Swiss Re has analysed the potential impact that these disasters may have on the area's residents as well as on the larger economy.
Swiss Re's report brings home quite how crucial it is for urban areas to be fully prepared in the event of natural disaster. It's imperative that these cities are prepared physically, by making the infrastructure as risk-resilient as possible. The governments are also charged with devising a financial plan to make sure that an at-risk city will be able to get back on its feet as best possible after disaster has struck. This means allowing for easy access to relief funds, recovery and reconstruction.
9 Los Angeles
4 Osaka Kobe
3 Pearl River Delta
The Tokyo-Yokohama is the riskiest urban area in the world with 37 million residents living under the threat of tsunamis, earthquakes, monsoons and river floods. Cited three times in this list, Japan's biggest cities are dangerously located along the Ring of Fire - the active faults of the western Pacific. Despite this fact, Tokyo is the most populated city in the world, located on a death-trap. Researchers estimate that approximately 80% of Tokyoites are, at any one moment, potentially exposed to a very large earthquake. The city is at the center of the Japanese economy so any disaster striking it would have tremendous repercussions throughout the country and beyond. It is not, however unprecedented: in 1923, the Great Kanto Earthquake devastated Tokyo and Yokohama, killing 142, 800 people. Tokyo is one of the richer cities on this list, so costly infrastructure is in place to ensure an earthquake would have a minimal impact on the city's buildings. But with the threat of a high-magnitude earthquake constantly shadowing the city, there is only so much reassurance those measures can provide.
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