Swiss Re: River Flooding Poses Highest Risk to Urban Areas

Flood risk threatens more people around the world than any other natural catastrophe, according to a new report from Swiss Re.

Across the 616 metropolitan areas included in the study, river flooding poses a threat to over 379 million residents. That’s more than the 283 million inhabitants potentially affected by earthquakes and the 157 million people at risk from windstorms.

When these natural catastrophes occur they not only affect millions of people but can also significantly disrupt the local and national economy.

Urban dwellers in Asia’s megacities are especially at risk, with Tokyo, Manila and Hong Kong-Guangzhou topping the population-at-risk index, Swiss Re says. Although smaller in size, European and U.S. cities could also face huge economic repercussions in the event of a major disaster.

Swiss Re’s report finds that metropolitan areas such as Tokyo, Los Angeles, New York and Amsterdam-Rotterdam rank high in terms of potential lost productivity, measured by the value of working days lost.

For example, the report shows that while a devastating earthquake in Los Angeles could affect just as many people as in Jakarta, the resulting value of working days lost would be 25 times higher.

Based on Swiss Re’s risk models and detailed hazard data, the report provides a global risk index comparing the human and economic exposure of 616 cities around the world. Together, these are home to 1.7 billion people and produce a combined GDP of $35 trillion, half of the world’s total economic output.

Swiss Re notes:

Investments in infrastructure are vital to strengthen the resilience of metropolitan areas. The potential damage that a large natural disaster can cause to roads, bridges, telecommunications and other essential infrastructure is perhaps nowhere more apparent than in the world’s big cities. This is why strengthening urban resilience is also a prime concern for the insurance industry. As an ultimate risk taker, the insurance industry has a vested interest in new infrastructure investments, upgrades to ageing infrastructure and adaptation measures.†

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