August 28, 2013 / 4:50 PM / 5 years ago

Melbourne world's most livable city, Damascus least: survey

LONDON (Reuters) - Melbourne, Australia was named the world’s most livable city for the third year in a row, according to a survey of 140 cities released this month by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) that also ranked the Syrian capital Damascus last.

The capital of Australia’s southeastern state of Victoria beat out Vienna, followed by Canadian cities Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary. Australia’s Adelaide, Perth and Sydney also made it into a top 10 list which included the Finnish capital, Helsinki, and Auckland, New Zealand.

“We feel immensely proud that Australia’s fastest growing city has again been recognized as the most livable city in the world,” Agent-General for the Victorian Government in Britain Geoffrey Conaghan said in an emailed statement.

The survey ranked Melbourne first among cities based on five categories of stability, health care, culture and environment, education and infrastructure, while highlighting the decline of Damascus, alongside Egypt’s Cairo and Tripoli in Libya, as a result of civil unrest across the Middle East and North Africa.

Unrest since Arab uprisings in 2011, which led to civil wars in Syria and Libya, as well as upheaval in Egypt, have pushed Damascus, Tripoli and Cairo down the rankings in the annual survey. Damascus dropped 10 places from last year to hit bottom.

“While the threat of terror had a defining influence on livability in the last decade, we can clearly see that civil unrest has already had a significant impact on livability in this decade,” survey editor Jon Copestake said in a statement on the EIU website.

The survey excludes cities such as Kabul in Afghanistan and Baghdad in Iraq, long plagued by conflict and insecurity.

Damascus, once regarded as a relatively secure city in the Middle East, had been a growing tourist destination before an uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2011.

On Wednesday, residents were bracing for possible Western military action in response to a poison gas attack which killed hundreds of people in the city’s suburbs a week ago.

Other cities placed in the bottom 10 in the livability survey included Dhaka in Bangladesh, Lagos in Nigeria, Libya’s Tripoli, Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea and Harare in Zimbabwe.

Reporting by Paul Casciato; Editing by Alistair Lyon

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