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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 news comes days after UFOs were apparently spotted flying over the BBC building in London.

The countries most at risk from an asteroid strike are Brazil, Britain, China, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Nigeria, the Philippines and the U.S.

Coincidentally, most of the list is 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 U.S., China, Indonesia, India and Japan are most in danger on this basis. Canada, the U.S., 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."

Bailey also pointed out that an asteroid which landed in a remote spot near the Tunguska River in Russia in 1908 devastated a very large perimeter and the impacts would have been catastrophic if the area had been populated. "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."

Scientists think that 65 million years ago, an asteroid was responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs as 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.

Many also insist that if Earth has until now managed to avoid being hit by such a large asteroid, it is partly due to Jupiter's gravitational field -- which limits our exposure to asteroids.