Top 5 Most Earthquake-Prone Cities in the World

Major earthquakes can claim thousands—sometimes tens, or in the case of Haiti in 2010, hundreds of thousands—of lives. As deadly as big trembles can be, their seriousness is magnified when they strike densely populated, urban areas. Surprisingly, we humans keep building and rebuilding major cities in areas that are particularly vulnerable to seismic disasters. If you live in one of these cities, you had better know what to do when an earthquake rocks your hometown.

5 Manila, Philippines

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A densely populated island capital, Manila lies on the edge of the Pacific’s “Ring of Fire”—a seismic hot zone that encircles the ocean. Dozens of earthquakes rated above magnitude 6.0 have wracked the volcanic Philippines over the last century. A direct hit on Manila from such a seismic event would do untold damage to this compact city of 15 square miles and more than 1.5 million people. More than 10,000 would likely die in such an earthquake.

4 Quito, Ecuador

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A capital with a population of nearly 2 million people, Quito also has the dubious distinction of being the only major city in the world in the shadow of an active volcano. While such seismicity may rank Quito high on the list of geologist vacation spots, it also makes Quito a potentially dangerous place to be in the event of one of its frequent tremors. A magnitude 6.0 earthquake could kill 1 percent of the city’s population.

3 Delhi, India

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Lying in the same seismic region as Kathmandu, Delhi is more than a dozen times the size of its Nepalese neighbor to the east. With a population of more than 14 million people, Delhi’s sprawl is what makes it a less dangerous city in the event of a major earthquake. Even so, experts predict that tens of thousands would lose their lives if a magnitude 6.0 seismic event rocked India’s capital region.

2 Istanbul, Turkey

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Throughout its history, Turkey has experienced earthquakes that have killed thousands. Istanbul, the country’s capital city, is a population center of more than 10 million. Located where the Eurasian and African tectonic plates meet, Istanbul is no stranger to seismic events. In the event of a major quake, the probability that an individual living in the city would be killed is below one percent—less than that of many other cities. However, the overall death toll from a major quake in Istanbul would likely top 50,000.

1 Kathmandu, Nepal

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One of the world’s highest capitals, Kathmandu is a densely-populated area of around 1 million people who live among the tallest mountains on the planet. This part of the Himalayas is seismically active, and according to a report compiled by the non-profit GeoHazards International, a resident of Kathmandu is two times more likely to be killed in an earthquake than a citizen of any other city included in the survey.

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