Highlighting the extreme weather conditions hitting Europe, space sensors aboard ESAs Envisat satellite have detected the worst floodwaters to hit Britain for 60 years and deadly fires raging through southern Europe.
Heavy rains caused the River Thames to burst its banks on Wednesday, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of homes in Britains university city of Oxford. The flooding across England and Wales has left tens of thousands without electricity and water. The Environment Agency still has three severe flood warnings in place two on the Thames around Oxford and one on the Ock River near Oxfordshire. In areas where flooding is beginning to recede, sanitation officials are warning of health risks posed by stagnant waters.
Flooding is estimated to be the world's most costly kind of natural disaster. The flooding of June and July in the UK is expected to cost the insurance industry at least 2 billion, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI). Floods Minister John Healey said recovery and clean-up efforts could take a number of months.
One of the biggest problems during flooding emergencies is obtaining an overall view of the phenomenon, with a clear idea of the extent of the flooded area. Aerial observation is often very difficult due to prohibitive weather conditions and, if the phenomenon is widespread, would be very time-consuming and expensive.
With inundated areas typically visible from space, Earth Observation (EO) is increasingly being used for flood response and mitigation. In October 2000, ESA and the French space agency (CNES) initiated the International Charter on 'Space and Major Disasters', a joint initiative for providing emergency response satellite data free of charge to those affected by disasters anywhere in the world. On 24 July, the UK Environment Agency requested the aid of the Charter.
Heat and fire