Satellites Help with Haiti Relief Efforts

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The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has tasked imagery satellite operator GeoEye of Dulles, Va., to take pictures of Haiti for humanitarian relief purposes during the GeoEye-1 satellite’s next pass over the earthquake-ravished nation, company spokesman Mark Brender said Jan. 15.

A catastrophic 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck the area Jan. 12, causing major damage to Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, and killing thousands. Images taken the next day by GeoEye-1 as it moved from north to south over the Caribbean showed extensive damage, roads covered with debris from collapsed structures and people crowded in the streets and public places such as sports fields and stadiums.

Brender said GeoEye-1 would gather more imagery during a Jan. 16 pass.

Satellite imagery taken immediately after a disaster can be used to generate emergency maps to aid rescue services. By comparing before-and-after images, officials can pinpoint areas hit the hardest and proceed to identify passable routes for relief and rescue workers, according to the European Space Agency, which also released satellite imagery of Haiti.

Fixed satellite services provider Intelsat of Washington and Bermuda, meanwhile, said Jan. 14 that within hours of the first customer request for assistance, it had established two communications networks — one in C-band and one in Ku-band — to provide critical communications links to aid recovery efforts in Haiti.