Virtual Disaster Viewer aids Haiti relief effort

Jan 27, 2010

An innovative web tool that allows earthquake experts worldwide to pool knowledge quickly and effectively is boosting action to help Haiti's earthquake victims.

The Virtual Disaster Viewer (VDV) is being used by relief agencies operating in Haiti to target emergency food and medical supplies, prioritise repairs to infrastructure to allow aid to reach where it's most needed, and to plan reconstruction and recovery.

VDV is the first web portal of its kind, representing a new type of Community Remote Sensing tool that operates in a similar way to . Its development was supported by funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Hundreds of earthquake scientists and engineers have been working with the VDV to access high-resolution 'before and after' satellite and aerial photos of the disaster zone. These specialists are part of the newly created Global Earth Observation Catastrophe Assessment Network (GEO-CAN).

Each expert is assigned a number of kilometre grids for damage assessment, with an area of over 300 square kilometres covered in all. The satellite and aerial photos show details down to the level of individual buildings, cars, vegetation and even folds in tents in temporary encampments. The experts then submit detailed assessments about the type and extent of damage caused to buildings, roads, bridges and other key infrastructure, and of where refugees are congregating.

The VDV collates this information and builds up a master map of the damage and dislocation caused across the whole disaster zone. It can also integrate aerial intelligence with detailed ground-based photos as it allows field reconnaissance teams to upload photos in real-time. The data can be accessed through any Internet-connected device.

Dr Tiziana Rossetto, leader of the Earthquake People and Interaction Centre (EPICentre) at University College London, and part of the VDV development team, says: "This is an excellent example of how research can be developed into an end-product capable of delivering tangible humanitarian benefits in a real-life crisis of shocking proportions."

This use of the VDV is being funded by the World Bank and co-ordinated by ImageCat, a US and UK-based R&D company providing advanced technologies for risk and disaster management.

Dr Beverley Adams, ImageCat's UK Director, says: "The VDV enables rapid mobilisation of leading-edge global expertise for rapid and detailed interpretation of earthquake damage. For relief agencies dealing with an appalling tragedy like the Haiti , speed is of the essence. Working with the World Bank, we're confident that the VDV is making a real difference in helping to bring desperately needed aid to Haiti's shattered community."

Explore further: Researchers create global road maps showing potential economic and ecological consequences of new roads

More information: The VDV is also suitable for use in disaster situations such as hurricanes, tsunamis and floods. All information collated can be publicly viewed at: www.virtualdisasterviewer.com.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Researchers go into action after Tsunami

Mar 18, 2005

British researchers have launched urgent research programmes in order to learn lessons from the recent Indian Ocean Tsunami disaster. Such knowledge is relevant to both UK, and overseas disaster assessment and prevention ...

Extended cyclone relief efforts aided from space

Jul 03, 2008

Earth observation satellites have provided vital information to relief workers in Myanmar throughout a particularly long crisis response window following the devastating Cyclone Nargis that hit the country ...

First satellite map of Haiti earthquake

Jan 14, 2010

A major 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince on 12 January, causing major casualties and damage. The quake was followed by several aftershocks with magnitudes over 5.0.

New satellite maps of Haiti coming in

Jan 15, 2010

As rescue workers scramble to provide assistance to hundreds of thousands of people following Haiti's earthquake, Earth observation satellite data continues to provide updated views of the situation on the ...

Recommended for you

China's Alibaba plans IPO for week of September 8

4 hours ago

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba plans to hold its initial public offering on the US stock market the week of September 8, the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Tablet sales slow as PCs find footing

5 hours ago

Tablets won't eclipse personal computers as fast as once thought, according to studies by market tracker International Data Corporation (IDC).

Startups offer banking for smartphone users

5 hours ago

The latest banks are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Startups, such as Moven and Simple, offer banking that's designed specifically for smartphones, enabling users to track their spending on the go. Some things ...

FIXD tells car drivers via smartphone what is wrong

18 hours ago

A key source of anxiety while driving solo, when even a bothersome back-seat driver's comments would have made you listen: the "check engine" light is on but you do not feel, smell or see anything wrong. ...

User comments : 0