Thursday, February 21, 2008

TerraSAR-X supports UN Emergency Response

Only 48 hours after UNOSAT, a United Nations operational programme of UNITAR that provides an enhanced access to satellite imagery, contacted Infoterra GmbH's teams in Friedrichshafen, the company's experts were able to deliver a readily processed high-resolution radar image acquired by the new German radar satellite TerraSAR-X.

Heavy rainfall had caused severe flooding in Bolivia, already killing more than 60 and leaving over 40.000 people homeless by February 13th, 2008. In the worst-hit province, Beni, thousands of people had to leave their homes amid rising floodwaters; rivers had broken their banks, and floodwaters were threatening to breach a raised road surrounding the provincial capital Trinidad, home to some 90,000 people.

Fearing the worst for the local population and rushing to prepare an effective emergency response, UNOSAT's Rapid Mapping, Applications and User Relations Unit, considering TerraSAR-X "the only radar satellite capable of properly detecting floods inside an urban setting like Trinidad", asked Infoterra to assess the possibilities of acquiring high-resolution radar imagery of the area.

A rapid tasking of the satellite led to an image acquisition February 14th; on the same day, the image was downloaded to the ground station and entered into the processing procedures with a high priority. On February 15th, a mere 48 hours after the initial inquiry, the image was delivered to the UNOSAT experts, who expressed a great satisfaction not only with the rapid response and delivery, but the impressive quality of the data as well.

Less than another 24 hours later, UNOSAT made a preliminary flood water analysis at scale 1:20.000 publicly available through its website: a valuable source of information not only to UN institutions, but to any other organization preparing emergency relief actions in the area – whether national or international, governmental or non-governmental.

According to UNOSAT, the map clearly depicts the flood waters over the affected urban extent of Trinidad. The flood water analysis was conducted with a single TerraSAR-X radar scene recorded on February 14th, enhanced by previously acquired RADARSAT-1 satellite data (8 February 2008, 5 April 2001). Reference:

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