© Associated Press/NASA
Britain has been identified among a host of countries scientists believe would be worst affected in the event of an asteroid strike.

Experts at Southampton University have drawn up a league table of countries most likely to suffer severe loss of life or catastrophic damage should a large asteroid hit Earth.

The list is largely made up of developed nations including China, Japan, the United States and Italy, on the basis that the size of their populations would mean millions of deaths.

The US, China, Indonesia, India and Japan are most in danger on this basis. Canada, the US, China, Japan and Sweden are rated most at risk in terms of potential damage to their infrastructure.

The report comes after a rock the size of a house came within 7,500 miles of Earth earlier this week.

The list has been compiled using software called NEOimpactor, using data from NASA's Near Earth Object programme.

"The threat of Earth being hit by an asteroid is increasingly being accepted as the single greatest natural disaster hazard faced by humanity," said Nick Bailey, of the University of Southampton, who developed the NEOimpactor software.

"The consequences for human populations and infrastructure as a result of an impact are enormous."

He added that the devastation wreaked by an asteroid which landed in a remote spot near the Tunguska River in Russia in 1908 demonstrated the impact such an event could have on a populated place.

"While it only flattened unpopulated forest, had it exploded over London it could have devastated everything within the M25," he said.

"Our results highlight those countries that face the greatest risk from this most global of natural hazards and thus indicate which nations need to be involved in mitigating the threat."

An asteroid is thought to have been responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago - a rock up to 10 miles in diameter hit Earth at 25,000 an hour with a force of 100 megatons, the equivalent of one Hiroshima bomb for everyone on the planet.

Earth has avoided such an event since in part because of Jupiter's gravitational field which limits our exposure to space rocks.

The countries most at risk:





The U.S

The Philippines