Teams responding to devastating flooding in Romania receivedassistance from orbit, with satellite images and maps of affected areasprovided in near-real time following activation of the InternationalCharter on Space and Major Disasters.
Torrential rainfallacross Southeast Europe has led to serious floods across Romania,described as the worst for half a century. Some 31 counties out of 42have been affected, the worst hit being the counties of Bacau, Vranceaand Galati in Moldavia, where the Siret River burst its banks to floodnumerous towns.
Soldiers and firefighters have had to evacuatemore than 12 000 people. Preliminary estimates are that 14 751 homeshave been flooded, with 3571 houses destroyed completely and 2993houses damaged. Around 300 500 hectares of farmland and many hundredsof kilometres of roads have been inundated.
Army helicopters havebeen delivering emergency supplies to otherwise unreachablecommunities. The death toll is reported to stand at 22 and thecountry's government estimates overall material losses at 2394 millionlei (675 million euro).
The International Charter on Space andMajor Disasters was activated on 15 July, following a request by theRomanian government to the European Commission. Member space agenciesthen prioritised acquisitions over the basin of the Siret River.
Strasbourg-basedrapid mapping specialist company SERTIT generated and distributedproducts on a near-real time basis, working with French space agencyCNES, responsible for the management of this Charter activation. Some43 satellite-derived maps and products have since been delivered viathe Romanian Space Agency (ROSA) to the Ministry of Environment andWater Management (MEWM). The products were disseminated to daily crisiscell meetings, to relevant government ministries and also featured inthe Romanian media.
"We can say we had the chance to get veryfast, very good images and maps," stated Iurie Maxim at the NatureConservation Directorate of MEWM. "We were able to show out minister at8pm some posters with images from the same day. The next morning thesame posters were presented to the Prime Minister and forwarded to thepeople working on this issue. "We were able to provide the necessarytools to the people involved in the water department and to thoseinvolved in the civil protection."
The International Charter on Space and Major Disasters
TheInternational Charter on Space and Major Disasters represents a jointeffort by global space agencies to put resources at the service ofrescue authorities responding to major natural or man-made disasters.To date the Charter has been activated more than 80 times.
Followingthe UNISPACE III conference held in Vienna, Austria in July 1999, theCharter was initiated by ESA and CNES with the Canadian Space Agency(CSA). Other members include the Indian Space Research Organisation(ISRO), the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA),the Argentine Space Agency (CONAE) and the Japan Aerospace Agency(JAXA), with the United Nations as a 'cooperating body'.
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