Flooding in Bangkok
Flooding in Bangkok

What is the opposite of a sustainable city? For insurance companies it quantifies to the riskiest. Insurance company SwissRe has calculated the 10 riskiest metropolitan areas in the world by assessing the largest 616 of them, and the risks to their inhabitants.

Natural catastrophes not only endanger human lives but can significantly disrupt the local economy of the city, and in some cases that of an entire country. Some of these catastrophes are affected by changes in the climate, and the report provides yet another reason why threatened cities need to make themselves more resilient to the kind of extreme weather events happening as a result of climate change.

Threat #1: river flooding

The vast majority of cities are prone to river flooding. Since most major cities developed alongside coasts or water was, flood risk threatens more of these areas than any other natural catastrophe: river flooding threatens 379 million residents. The threat from river flooding is particularly high in India and China.

The most earthquake-threatened parts of the world

The most earthquake-threatened parts of the world

Threat #2: Earthquakes
Over 283 million inhabitants are potentially threatened by earthquakes, and 157 million at risk of strong winds. The riskiest cities are those with more than one of these potential threats.

Threat #3: Storms
Storms are also a potential danger, particularly in eastern Asia. Tropical cyclones are active in the basin of the West Pacific, whereas in Europe winter storms pose the most threats.

The 10 most threatened cities
Putting together all of these potential threats, SwissRe ranks the ten most threatened cities in the world according to three ways of measuring threat, common to insurance companies who know that, in insurance terms, not all lives are equal in value: by the number of people potentially affected; the value of the working days lost; and that value relative to the national economy.



People at risk


Value of working days lost


Value of working days lost relative to the national economy


Tokyo-Yokohama (JPN)

57.1 mn

Tokyo-Yokohama (JPN)


Manila (PHL)



Manila (PHL)

34.6 mn

Osaka-Kobe (JPN)


Amsterdam-Rotterdam (NLD)



Pearl River Delta (CHN)

34.5 mn

Nagoya (JPN)


Tokyo-Yokohama (JPN)



Osaka-Kobe (JPN)

32.1 mn

Pearl River Delta (CHN)


San Jose (CRI)



Jakarta (IND)

27.7 mn

Amsterdam-Rotterdam (NLD)


Guayaquil (ECU)



Nagoya (JPN)

22.9 mn

Los Angeles (USA)


Taipei (TWN)



Kolkata (IND)

17.9 mn

New York-Newark (USA)


Ndjamena (TCL)



Shanghai (CHN)

16.7 mn

San Francisco(USA)


Nagoya (JPN)



Los Angeles (USA)

16.4 mn

Paris (FRA)


Tainan-Kaohsiung (TWN)



Tehran (IRN)

15.6 mn

Taipei (TWN)


Lima (PER)


1. Tokyo-Yokohama tops the list because its 37 million inhabitants are threatened by earthquakes, monsoons, river floods and tsunamis. As a country, Japan is also the most exposed to risk of tsunamis as its metropolitan areas line the so-called River of Fire earthquake fault lines.

2. Manila is built off the Philippines trench and as such is not just threatened by earthquakes, but also by typhoons such as Haiyan, which devastated the country last year. Thousands died as a result.

3. The Pearl River Delta is a ribbon development home to more than 42 million people that includes Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Dongguan, Macau and Ghangzhou. Not only is it situated along a floodplain but under threat of storm surges, cyclones and river floods.

4. Osaka-Kobe, with a population of 14.6 million, like Tokyo lives under threat of earthquakes, tsunamis and floods.

5. Almost perversely, 40% of Jakarta is below sea level, lying in a basin and its 17.7 million population vulnerable to earthquakes. It is also has a risk of river flooding.

6. Nagoya, population around 2.4 million, suffers from the same threats as Tokyo and Osaka.

7. Calcutta (Kolkata)'s 10.5 million inhabitants are threatened by hurricanes, tsunamis and river floods.

8. Shanghai, like many other cities, is built on a floodplain and river delta. Other similarly threatened cities include: Paris, Doha, Baghdad, Mexico City and Bangkok.

9. Los Angeles' 14.7 million occupants are threatened by earthquakes due to the city's location on the San Andreas Fault.

10. Teheran is threatened in a similar way because it is located on the Northern Anatolian fault, which is highly active and threatens 13.6 million people. Other cities on this fault line include: Bucharest and Tashkent, Uzbekistan's capital.

You can read the full report here: http://media.swissre.com/documents/Swiss_Re_Mind_the_risk.pdf