PARIS — The French space agency, CNES, has begun providing archived images from its Spot Earth observation satellites to relief teams in Sri Lanka helping victims of the Dec. 26 earthquake and resulting tsunami, CNES announced Dec. 31.
The French effort is part of a broader satellite-based disaster-assistance program called the International Space and Major Disasters Charter, which was activated Dec. 26 following a coordinated request from the Indian Space Research Organization, French relief groups in Asia and the United Nations. It has been providing updated satellite-based images of the tsunami-hit areas.
The charter, created in November 2000 by the French, Canadian and European space agencies, now includes the space and meteorological agencies of the United States, India and Argentina, with Japan and the United Nations also cooperating in the effort.
Once the charter has been activated, one or more of about a half-dozen optical and radar satellites owned by charter members are activated to provide coverage of a stricken region. Charter-coordinated data being delivered since Dec. 26 to rescue teams in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and elsewhere in the tsunami-affected region of South and Southeast Asia include before-and-after maps of coastal areas permitting relief personnel to determine where to deploy resources.
In addition to its charter-related contribution, France has made available three Inmarsat satellite communications ground stations to permit on-site rescue teams to give medical assistance under the supervision of doctors who can monitor the injured through live satellite video links, CNES announced. CNES has an existing agreement with Indocomputech, a private telemedicine company in India, to link Indian hospitals and disaster areas.