Shared images to help Philippines make disaster plans

While some countries have shipped relief supplies for the victims of Tropical Storm “Sendong,” others are sharing valuable satellite data on the devastated areas in Mindanao. Commercial satellite operators from Asia, Europe and North America have sent images of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities, taken before and after the flashfloods, to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs)—all for free. The images would have otherwise cost the government thousands of US dollars, according to Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum. The high-resolution images would be crucial in Phivolcs’ post-calamity evaluation and in mapping future risks in the affected areas, said Solidum, a geologist, The images would also be shared with the Office of Civil Defense, and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, he added.

Global assistance

“These are all part of the global community assistance for every disaster,” the official said in an interview. In Sendong’s aftermath, Phivolcs made requests for satellite images through Sentinel Asia, an organization that helps assess damage in natural disasters in the Asia-Pacific region, and the UN Charter on Space and Major Disasters, a mechanism that facilitates data acquisition and delivery involving various space agencies following major disasters. Within days, governments and commercial satellite operators from Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, France, Germany and Canada sent in pre- and post-disaster images of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan. “We’re processing these images so we can overlay the names of villages,” Solidum said, noting that the data should also serve as a grim warning to local governments not to build homes where rivers meander and not to downplay the risks posed by bodies of water to human settlements.