Envisat Symposium report day 4: Assistance from space to combat hazards and natural disasters

When is a flood not a flood? For the duration of the International Humanitarian Partnership's Triplex 2004 exercise, taking place in Norway this week, humanitarian aid groups are taking part in a scenario where the country's southern Lake Mjǿsa is in fact a flood zone in the imaginary country of 'Innlandia', inundated by a combination of heavy rainfall and a neglected dam that has given way. Within the context of the exercise, 100 000 people have been affected by the disaster, with 1000 people stranded on an island actually the real semi-island of Helgǿya - needing assistance and evacuation.

In this imaginary setting, real international aid groups arrive to give help, with participants including Norway's Directorate for Civil Protection and Emergency Planning, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UK's Department for International Development and the International Red Cross.

More than 350 people from 20 different organisations have gathered at the Starum Civil Defence training centre to take part in the Triplex exercise and at the centre of their activities is an image from Envisat.

"We have supplied the participants with a damage assessment map based on an Envisat Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR) map acquired on Tuesday," explained Einar Bjorgo of UNOSAT, an organisation that procures satellite imagery for United Nations organisations, supported by ESA through its Earth Observation Market Development (EOMD) Programme.

"Working in cooperation with our partners MapAction, we overlaid a previously prepared pre-disaster simulated image with the ASAR-derived lake area, preparing a damage assessment map for distribution and use in the field during Triplex."

Use of satellite imagery to coordinate disaster relief is hardly limited to training exercises, as Symposium participants have learnt. UNOSAT and MapAction are both partners in the RESPOND consortium, an ESA-backed project to supply s

Contact: Mariangela D'Acunto
European Space Agency

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