International satellites supporting disaster management

The International Charter "Space and Major Disasters" is an international effort to put space technology at the service of rescue and emergency responders in the event of major disasters. With 17 Charter members and 34 contributing satellites from around the world, the Charter allows for resources and expertise to be organized for a quick response to catastrophic events. Member space agencies cooperate on a voluntary basis, with no exchange of funds, and each agency has devoted resources to support the Charter. Operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and at no cost to the user, the Charter mobilizes international partners, helping alleviate the effects of disasters on human life and property.

 Did you know?

  • Initiated in by the European Space Agency (ESA) and France's space agency, the Centre national d'études spatiales (CNES), the Charter was signed by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) in , making Canada a founding member.
  • The Charter came into effect on . From that date to , there were 601 activations in 125 countries, including 13 activations in Canada.
  • Every six months, a different member space agency takes on the role of Chair. The CSA will be the Charter's lead agency as of , succeeding the CNES.
The International Charter “Space and Major Disasters”: A worldwide collaboration to save lives

This visual provides an overview of the International Charter "Space and Major Disasters." (Credit: CSA)

Text version - The International Charter "Space and Major Disasters": A worldwide collaboration to save lives

The Charter provides a unified system to make satellite data of affected areas available to support relief efforts. Timely, reliable and accurate information enables response teams to be better equipped to save lives and limit damage.

  • Founding members: ESA, CNES, CSA
  • 34 contributing satellites
  • Canada's participating satellites: RADARSAT-2 (launch: ) and RADARSAT Constellation Mission (launch: )
  • Effective since
  • Members cooperate on a voluntary basis, at no cost to the user
  • Activations from to the end of :
    • 594 in 125 countries
    • 13 in Canada
  • 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Types of disasters: floods, cyclones/hurricanes, volcanoes, landslides, oil spills, earthquakes, tsunami
  • 17 members

When the Charter is activated, its members make satellite images of devastated regions available to support relief efforts. RADARSAT-2 imagery, and soon that of the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM), regularly provides support to rescue teams on the ground. Armed quickly with reliable and accurate information, response teams are better equipped to save lives and limit damage to property, infrastructure and the environment.

In , the Charter was activated in Canada during severe floods in Quebec and Ontario. A state of emergency was declared as over 5,000 homes were flooded in the Greater Montreal Area, and several hundreds in Ontario. Using RADARSAT-2 imagery, along with that of other satellites, Natural Resources Canada produced maps that aided Public Safety Canada's relief efforts. Warrant Officer Marc Pouliot, Chief of Geomatics for the province of Quebec within the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), was one of the first responders on the ground during the flood.

Learn why satellites and satellite-based systems are indispensable tools to keep us safe.

Below is a list of all Charter activations where RADARSAT data was requested.

Fires in Australia –

Bushfires spread across Australia's New South Wales and Queensland states. At least four people were killed and hundreds of homes were destroyed. Over the course of last week, the fires wiped out about one million hectares of farmland and bush. The firefighters are working to get more than 100 bushfires under control, but the outlook is grim as no substantial rains are expected in the next three months.

More information on the fires in Australia - .

Credit: CSA

Flood in Kenya –

Heavy rainfall since early October caused flash floods, mudslides and landslides in many regions of Kenya. At least 29 people died and over 100,000 were affected. Floods damaged infrastructure, including roads and bridges, and disrupted access to food and healthcare.

More information on the flood in Kenya - .

Credit: CSA

Flood in Cameroon –

Heavy rain caused the Logone River and Lake Maga to overflow in the Far North region of Cameroon. Around 100,000 people were affected, with many families displaced.

More information on the flood in Cameroon - .

Credit: CSA

Typhoon Hagibis in Japan –

Typhoon Hagibis, the strongest storm to hit Japan in decades, is forecasted to make landfall on the country's east coast, including Tokyo, late or early . Wind gusts of up to 252 km/h, 13-metre waves and as much as 75 cm of rain in a 24-hour period are expected. Nearly all domestic and many international flights have been cancelled in and out of Tokyo's major airports. Evacuation centres have been opened across the country.

More information on the typhoon in Japan - .

Credits: CSA, NASA Worldview, Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS)

Flood in India –

Torrential monsoon rains caused severe flooding in northern India resulting in the loss of many lives in Uttar Pradesh state and in the neighbouring Bihar state.

More information on the flood in India - .

Credit: CSA

Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas –

On , Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the northern part of the Bahamas as a Category 5 storm. The strongest storm to hit the region in modern history, it brought heavy rainfall and wind speeds of 295 km/h at the time of the landfall. It devastated the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama, killing 20 people, including one Canadian woman. At least 100 survivors have been rescued. The only international airport on the island of Grand Bahama was destroyed. Large areas continue to be inaccessible to rescue crews. The United Nations estimates that about 70,000 people in the northern Bahamas are in need of relief assistance.

More information on the Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas - .

Credit: CSA

Flood in Japan –

Torrential rain caused floods and landslides in parts of Japan's southern island of Kyushu. Three people were killed and over 800,000 people were ordered to evacuate.

More information on the flood in Japan - .

Credit: CSA

Flood in Sudan  –

Heavy rains caused severe flooding in Sudan, killing 62 people. Close to 200,000 people across 15 states have been affected by torrential rains and floods since . According to the United Nations, over 37,000 homes have been damaged.

More information on the flood in Sudan - .

Credit: CSA

Flood in Russia  –

Heavy rains caused flooding in the Khabarovsk Krai, Primorsky Krai and the Amur Oblast of eastern Russia.

More information on the flood in Russia - .

Credit: CSA

Flood in Russia  –

Heavy rains caused flooding in the Amur Oblast of eastern Russia. The Amur and Zeya rivers burst their banks, flooding 16 communities. About 600 homes and 18 roads were flooded, leading to the evacuation of over a thousand people.

More information on the flood in Russia - .

Credit: CSA

Volcano eruption in Peru –

A state of emergency was declared for 12 districts in Peru after the Ubinas volcano began erupting on . The volcano sent up a column of ash about 5 km high. The ash has since drifted over 25 km, along with toxic gases. As of , nearly 30,000 people were affected and 637 public buildings and homes were damaged.

More information on the volcano eruption in Peru - .

Credit: CSA

Flood in India –

Monsoon rains caused severe flooding in north and northeastern India. The Brahmaputra River, which runs through India, Bangladesh and China, burst its banks, flooding over 1,800 villages in India's northeast Assam state, where 30 people were killed and at least 5.8 million people were displaced. In the northern Indian state of Bihar, 33 people were killed and almost 2 million were displaced. The floods have killed at least 153 people in India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

More information on the flood in India - .

Credit: CSA

Flooding in Russia –

Heavy rains caused severe flooding in the Siberian region of Irkutsk in Russia. Twenty-two people died and 11 are still missing. A state of emergency was declared in the region.

More information on the flood in Russia - .

Credit: CSA

Earthquake in Peru –

On , a magnitude 8.0 earthquake hit a remote part of the Amazon Jungle in Peru, on the outskirts of the small town of Yurimaguas. One person was killed, at least 11 were injured and over 50 homes were damaged. The earthquake triggered a landslide, blocking a road; collapsed several buildings; damaged a bridge and knocked out power in some areas. According to the United States Geological Survey, the earthquake struck at a depth of 110 km below Earth's surface. Had this powerful earthquake occurred closer to the surface, the damage would have been even greater. Emergency services are on site and rescue operations are underway.

More information on the earthquake in Peru - .

Credit: CSA

Flood in Paraguay –

Persistent heavy rains across Paraguay caused widespread flooding, with rivers overflowing their banks. The departments of Neembucu, Presidente Hayes, Alto Paraguay and Concepción are among the hardest-hit areas. At least six people died and about 40,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes. The rising water levels have cut off several rural towns, making it difficult for relief and medical aid teams to come in.

More information on the flood in Paraguay - .

Credit: CSA

Cyclone Fani in India –

Cyclone Fani hit the Indian coastal state of Odisha, home to 46 million people. A record 1.2 million people were evacuated in 24 hours. The biggest storm to hit India in the last 20 years, Fani has left at least 35 people dead. About 7,000 kitchens supplying 9,000 shelters were set up, with 45,000 volunteers providing help. Emergency workers are restoring damaged infrastructure, such as power and telecom lines, and clearing roads.

More information on the cyclone in India - .

Credit: CSA

Landslide in Bolivia –

A landslide destroyed 17 houses and roads in La Paz, Bolivia. Thankfully, no deaths were reported as authorities had evacuated the area.

More information on the landslide in Bolivia - .

Credit: CSA

Cyclone in Mozambique –

Cyclone Kenneth has made landfall in northern Mozambique with wind speeds of over 200 kilometres per hour and heavy rainfalls. The death toll has risen to 38, officials say, with 160,000 people at risk and 35,000 homes destroyed or damaged. Aid workers are struggling to reach the worst-affected areas.

Cyclone Kenneth hit Mozambique just six weeks after Cyclone Idai devastated parts of the country, leaving more than 900 dead across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.

More information on the cyclone in Mozambique.

Credit: CSA

Flood in South Africa – 

Heavy rains caused mudslides and floods in the coastal province of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. Seventy people were killed and over 1000 displaced. Search and rescue teams continue to look for survivors.

More information on the flood in South Africa – .

Credit: CSA

Flood in Canada –

Snowmelt and rain caused spring flooding in parts of Quebec and New Brunswick. In eastern Ontario, some communities along the Ottawa River are also at risk. The flooding might get worse, as warm temperatures and more rain are forecasted in the coming days.

In Quebec, over 3,100 homes were hit by flooding, 1,400 people were forced from their homes, and 1,800 properties were isolated due to landslides and washed-out roads. Five major floods affected residents in 51 different municipalities, including in the Montreal region. One person died in a flood-related road accident. About 600 Canadian soldiers have been deployed across the province to help residents. 

In New Brunswick, 15 communities are on high alert and about 200 Canadian soldiers have been deployed to help fill and distribute sandbags and assist residents. According to local authorities, 69 roads and bridges have been affected by the flooding, 45 of which are closed or partially closed.

More information on the flood in Canada.

Flood map of the National Capital Region derived from RADARSAT-2 data on . (Credit: Image provided by Natural Resources Canada)

Text version of the flood map of the National Capital Region on
  • pale blue: permanent water bodies
  • dark blue: open water flood
  • pale green: flooded vegetation
  • pink: urban flood
  • red square: satellite image footprint

Flood map of the National Capital Region derived from RADARSAT-2 data on . (Credit: Image provided by Natural Resources Canada)

Text version Flood map of the National Capital Region on
  • pale blue: permanent water bodies
  • dark blue: open water flood
  • pale green: flooded vegetation
  • pink: urban flood
  • red square: satellite image footprint

Flood map of New Brunswick derived from RADARSAT-2 data on . (Credit: Image provided by Natural Resources Canada)

Text version of the flood map of New Brunswick
  • pale blue: permanent water bodies
  • dark blue: open water flood
  • pale green: flooded vegetation
  • pink: urban flood
  • red square: satellite image footprint

Flood in Iraq –

Heavy rains caused widespread flooding in Iraq. Water rose to historic levels in the country's main water reservoirs, with the Tigris River reaching its peak. Thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes.

More information on the flood in Iraq.

Credit: CSA

Flood in Indonesia –

Torrential rains caused flash flooding and triggered landslides in Indonesia's easternmost province of Papua. At least 89 people have been killed, 150 have been injured and 74 are still missing. About 6,800 people have been evacuated to temporary shelters.

More information on the flood in Indonesia.

Credit: CSA

Cyclone Idai in Mozambique and Zimbabwe –

Heavy winds, rainfall and flash flooding caused by Cyclone Idai have swept through countries in southern Africa. RADARSAT-2 imagery was provided to support the operations of response teams in the following communities:

Credit: CSA

Mozambique

The cyclone has destroyed as much as 90 per cent of Mozambique's central port city of Beira. The electricity was cut off, the airport shut down and the road access blocked. While the official death toll is 200, local authorities believe it could rise to over 1,000.

More information on Cyclone Idai in Mozambique.

Zimbabwe

As the result of the cyclone, at least 98 people were killed, while hundreds more are missing, in eastern and southern Zimbabwe. Homes, bridges and roads were destroyed, making rescue efforts difficult.

More information on Cyclone Idai in Zimbabwe.

Landslides in Bolivia –

Torrential rain caused two landslides on the road linking the city of La Paz to the northern town of Caranavi in Bolivia. At least 15 people were killed, including five minors, and 39 were injured, while seven are still missing. Local education authorities have postponed the start of the new school year for at least a week.

More information on the landslides in Bolivia.

Credit: CSA

Dam collapse in Brazil –

On January 25, a tailings dam collapsed at an iron ore mining site in the town of Brumadinho in southeastern Brazil. Collapsing shortly after noon, the dam released a mudflow that buried the site's cafeteria where workers were eating lunch before engulfing houses and roads in a nearby community. At least 58 people have been killed and over 300 people are still missing, while 192 people were rescued alive. The reason for the collapse hasn't yet been determined. Search and rescue teams are continuing to look for survivors.

More information on the dam collapse in Brazil.

Credit: CSA

Flood in Brazil –

Heavy rains caused the Ibirapuitã, Ibicuí and Uruguay rivers to burst their banks, leading to widespread flooding in the western part of the Rio Grande do Sul state in Brazil. Strong winds and nearly 500 mm of rainfall in 72 hours were reported. One person has died and over 2000 people have been displaced as the floods damaged houses and blocked roads.

More information on the flood in Brazil.

Credit: CSA

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