Working in shifts around the clock, staff of the German Remote Sensing Data Center (DFD) produced their first maps of the Philippine disaster areas based on satellite image data. When typhoon Haiyan reached the islands on 8 November 2013, extensively destroying wide areas, Germany's disaster aid organization (THW Technisches Hilfswerk) activated DFD’s Center for Satellite Based Crisis Information (ZKI) via the Federal Ministry of the Interior and the International Charter "Space and Major Disasters". The analyzed and processed images are now providing basic information for THW relief efforts on the island of Cebu.
"Individual houses can hardly be detected any more in Bogo City because the destruction is so extensive that not much of anything remains,” explains Hendrik Zwenzner, coordinator for this emergency mapping at the German Remote Sensing Data Center. On one of these maps the red color showing the locations of badly destroyed infrastructure predominates. In the night from 12 to 13 November 2013 a four-person ZKI team requested data from the optical Worldview-1 satellite and generated from them maps with useful information for the on-site THW relief teams. A complicating factor was the cloud cover over the region, which did not permit a clear satellite view of all parts of the entire area. “For our maps we compared the new satellite data with archived data, which gave us information about the destruction of buildings, streets, bridges and other infrastructure. This enables the emergency response teams to more effectively plan their relief efforts."
Maps for the on-site response teams
Bogo a city of some 70,000 inhabitants on the north tip of the island of Cebu, and its environs are the goal of a THW relief team arriving in the Philippines on 14 November 2013. The equipment of the 17-person team includes two water treatment plants. "We want to guarantee a supply of drinking water," explains Veronika Wolf, a resource person for relief efforts and projects in THW’s international division. "But in order to be able to transport the equipment and the team to various operational sites, we need the advance information provided in DLR’s disaster maps.” Which streets are open to transport, which regions are destroyed, and to what extent? “We go to places where no response team has been so far." The satellite images from space and their assessment by DFD are now with the local THW team leaders, who are preparing for the arrival of helpers and coordinating their assignments. "The maps are ideal for us", emphasizes Veronika Wolf.
For the International Charter “Space and Major Disasters” DFD has supplied up-to-date satellite data and archive images for an even larger part of the disaster area for distribution to and assessment by international partners. They in turn forward this information to various users worldwide. At present ZKI is preparing additional detailed analyses for the disaster areas.