A new study reports that of nine coastal cities around the world, Shanghai is the most vulnerable to damage and destruction from serious flooding.
The study uses a new method for estimating how vulnerable cities are to flooding that looks at social and economic factors as well as weather patterns and environmental factors.
A team of scientists from the UK and the Netherlands developed The Coastal City Flood Vulnerability Index (CCFVI), which combines 19 factors including a city’s speed of recovery, level of economic activity, and a population’s awareness of flood shelters.
“Vulnerability is a complex issue,” lead author of the study Professor Nigel Wright of the University of Leeds says in a statement. “It is not just about your exposure to flooding, but the effect it actually has on communities and business and how much a major flood disrupts economic activity. Our index looks at how cities are prepared for the worst—for example, do they have flood defenses, do they have buildings that are easy to clean up and repair after the flood? It is important to know how quickly a city can recover from a major flood.”
The study was published in the journal Natural Hazards.
Researchers say Shanghai came out as the worst because the city lacks flood shelters for victims and it is exposed to powerful storm surges.
Other cities analyzed for the index include Dhaka (Bangladesh), Calcutta (India) and Marseille (France).
“The vulnerability index also revealed that Dhaka, which sits just meters above current sea levels, is regularly hit by tropical cyclones and floods, yet it has few defenses in place and little resilience. Manila in the Philippines and Calcutta in India are also highly vulnerable largely because of their large populations and degree of exposure to storms.”
The index was also used to evaluate the impact climate change will have on these flood-prone cities in the future. Futurity reports that “although the vulnerability of all the cities will increase,” Shanghai and Dhaka will be the most vulnerable cities in 2100, if sea levels continue to rise as predicted over the next 100 years.
“Our index provides a flexible tool for cities to explore how they are currently exposed to flooding and how this may change in the future,” Wright says. “It will help them to prioritize their flood risk and resilience strategies.”
Photo via flickr/The Pocket