Space-based assistance is being provided through Global Monitoring for Environment and Security initiative (GMES). This flagship initiative of ESA and the European Union aims to combine Earth- and space-based data sources and develop an integrated environmental monitoring capability to benefit European and world citizens. ESA is developing GMES pilot services in close conjunction with a large community of operational users.
A segment of GMES Services known as Respond is addressing geo-spatial information requirements of the humanitarian aid community. This ESA-sponsored alliance of European and international organisations works with industry and the humanitarian aid community to improve access to maps, satellite images and geo-information. Respond was founded in 2003, though the Asian tsunami represents the largest-scale event dealt with so far.
The undersea earthquake off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra that triggered the tsunami was the second-largest in recorded history, with billions of tonnes of seawater sent into motion by uplift of the ocean floor. Within a half-hour of the quake the first wave hit Sumatra, with the coastal city of Banda Aceh almost destroyed. From there, the tsunami carried on to strike nations across the rim of the Indian Ocean as far distant as the Maldives and Somalia.
Immediately following the disaster, the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters was activated, prioritising the acquisition of satellite data over the affected region.