Satellite-based assistance with natural disasters

Natural disasters alert the Zentrum für Satellitengestützte Kriseninformation (ZKI).

Natural disasters such as the flooding in Germany or the tropical hurricane "Phailin" in the Gulf of Bengal alert the Zentrum für Satellitengestützte Kriseninformation (Centre for Satellite Based Crisis Information - ZKI).

The ZKI is an agency of the Deutsches Fernerkundungsdatenzentrum (German Remote Data Sensing Center - DFD) of the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (German Aerospace Centre - DLR) in Oberpfaffenhofen near Munich. Its task is the provision of a 24/7 service for the rapid acquisition, processing and analysis of satellite data during natural and environmental disasters.

During the flooding in May and June 2013 the ZKI provided situation information on the basis of sat­ellite and aerial images for the most badly affected areas in the Federal States of Thuringia, Saxony, Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg. With the help of emergency maps, immediate measures were sup­ported in situ and the planning and recording of the reconstruction work were carried out. In the event of flooding, the maps give information about the flooded area and are used to assess the dam­age. The devastating flood caused damage amounting to 6.7 billion euro and claimed eight human lives in Germany alone. Besides Germany, the neighbouring countries of Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Croatia and Serbia were affected by in some cases severe flooding.

In mid-October 2013 the ZKI then received a call for help from India. After the supercyclone “Phailin“ swept over the Gulf of Bengal with wind speeds up to 259 km/h, the scientists provided satellite im­ages of the area to India’s space agency. The maps prepared from the data helped the rescue teams and aid organisations to assess the situation in the disaster area and initiate aid measures.

“Phailin“ has gone down in history as one of the severest tropical cyclones above the North Indian Ocean. Its path led to northeast India, where the cyclone went on land in the state of Odisha and caused enormous damage. More than five million inhabitants were affected by hurricane-force winds; about half a million Indians were made homeless after the cyclone. At least 36 people died as a result.

The DLR is a member of the International Charta “Space and Major Disasters“, in which public and private operators of earth observation satellites enable fast, free access to current images of disaster areas.

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