Ten Cities Dangerously Situated in Earthquake Zones

I’m glad I live in Manitoba.  I dislike blizzards and -30 wind chill.  But at least I don’t have to live with the threat of my apartment building shaking and collapsing from under me.

Photo from Chile:

These are the top ten cities in the world that face the most serious threat from earthquakes.

San Francisco

More than any other U.S. city, San Francisco is known for major earthquakes, most famously the 1906 quake that caused a fire that destroyed much of the city. Later research into the earthquake led to the discovery of the San Andreas Fault. Frisco remains at high risk for a big one: Between now and 2032, there’s a 62 percent chance of a quake stronger than 6.6 on the Richter scale.


Situated on the North Anatolian fault line—one of the most active in the world—Istanbul has been on earthquake watch for years and is what The Guardian once called “a disaster waiting to happen.” With 15 million residents and 1.6 million buildings, Istanbul is a difficult city to prepare for this kind of disaster, but recently officials have tightened regulations on buildings, and the World Bank has donated millions to aid in preparatory measures. Studies by the U.S. Geological Survey found as much as a 70 percent chance of a major earthquake in the city within the next three decades.


The Great Kanto Quake that rocked Tokyo in 1923 still ranks as one of the world’s worst disasters of the 20th century. Fires spread across the city and took two days to extinguish because the quake had ruptured water lines. Scientists think there’s a 70 percent chance that in the coming decades another big earthquake will wreak havoc the capital of Japan—the most quake-prone country in the world.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles also contains nearly 100 faults, and is one of the major cities along the San Andreas Fault Zone, which moves two inches per year. The most recent significant earthquake in L.A.’s history occurred in 1994, was 6.7 in magnitude, and was “the costliest U.S. earthquake since 1906.” The city is expected to experience at least one earthquake a year of magnitude 5.0 or greater, scientists say.


Scientists estimate that a major earthquake could kill as many as a million people in Tehran, making it one of the most vulnerable cities to an earthquake in the world. Home to 8.5 million inhabitants and an unstable government, the metropolis lies on at least a hundred different fault lines, such a dangerous location that some have argued that Iran should pack up and move its entire capital city to a safer spot.


A recent study found that Manila is at greater risk for an earthquake than was previously thought, and last year, a U.N. official made his concern apparent. “You’re gonna have 16,000 buildings destroyed. You’re gonna have…150,000 who are injured,” the head of the U.N.’s Emergency Services Branch told the BBC, predicting an imminent quake of between 7.0 and 8.0 magnitude in this city of 18 million. A colleague echoed his concern.“The big earthquake is certainly coming. The question is when? No one can tell. It can happen today, tomorrow, or next year. But certainly there will be an earthquake.

Mexico City

Haiti’s recent earthquake drew many comparisons to the one that struck Mexico City in 1985. The massive metropolitan area is home to over 21 million people, and the city itself was built on a dried-up lake bed, making the ground underneath like “a huge bowl of gelatin,” according to one researcher. Ominously, on the Earthquake Disaster Risk Index, Mexico City sits just higher than Santiago, Chile.


Geohazards International conducted an exhaustive study of what would happen to Ecuador’s capital city in the days and weeks following a major earthquake. It predicted severe structural damage due to the “vulnerable adobe” buildings, landslides that bury people and render roads impassable, a breakdown of the city’s water supply, sewage flooding the streets, and thousands of homeless people dying of exposure in the first night after the quake. “Human casualties would be substantial,” the hypothetical scenario states.


The Alaska Seismic Hazards Safety Commission says the 49th state is one of the most earthquake-prone areas in the world, and its largest city gets hit by a moderate tremor most years. The last one to do major damage was on Good Friday in 1964, and, at 9.2 on the Richter scale, it remains the strongest to afflict North America to date. Since then, Alaska’s population has more than doubled, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates that “with the present infrastructure and policies, Alaska will have the second highest… earthquake-loss ratio in the country.”


This Nepalese city is especially vulnerable thanks to its haphazardly constructed homes built with reinforced concrete and filled in with masonry. Experts have warned for years about Kathmandu’s lack of earthquake preparation, the danger intensified by its dense population. The last major quake happened in 1934, when nearly 17,000 city residents died in a minute

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