On April 14, 2010 the Southern Quinghai region in the north-west of China experienced a 6.9 magnitude earthquake which left hundreds of people dead and the majority of population injured. The immediate reports from China indicated more than 15,000 houses destroyed with a high risk of people being trapped by the destroyed infrastructure. The importance of high resolution satellite imagery was highlighted by the fact that the affected area of Yushu County is located 500 miles from the nearest major airport, which raised logistical challenges for relief operations on the ground.
Immediately after the first reports of the earthquake destruction, the UN-SPIDER team activated the SpaceAid framework in order to assist in the response phase by bridging the space data providers with the Chinese disaster management authorities in charge of the response. The EU SAFER mechanism was also activated and triggered its services. The coordinates of the estimated affected area were provided by the UN-SPIDER National Focal Point in China and were then forwarded to the respective space-based imagery providers. All the information, including the status of available satellite imagery, was collected and published on the UN-SPIDER Knowledge Portal SpaceAid Page for the respective earthquake (see link below).
GeoEye quickly delivered a post-event half-meter resolution satellite image taken by GeoEye-1, which was ideally suited not only for damage assessment but, for a remote location like Yushu County, also for the response and recovery phases. The image was immediately offered for no-cost download to UN-SPIDER, and was also shared with the media. The high resolution satellite image by GeoEye-1 was then used to create a detailed damage assessment product generated by the German Aerospace Center (DLR/ZKI). In the context of SAFER, a number of satellites were also tasked and data provided to produce various map products for assessment. All these products were promptly and directly provided to the Chinese colleagues. Immediately following the receipt of these damage assessment products, the UN-SPIDER team also made them available on the UN-SPIDER Knowledge Portal SpaceAid page.
It should be noted that the Chinese end-users were particularly thankful for the quick and full access to the GeoEye image, having solicited post-disaster very high resolution raw imagery data as well for their own efforts, and also for all the derived products made available so quickly by the activated mechanisms.
SpaceAid updates on the earthquake: http://www.un-spider.org/page/3455/spaceaid-available-space-based-resources-earthquake-nw-china