Chinese Satellites Help Record Global Disasters

- Jul 30, 2019-

China has deployed its satellites to monitor more than 30 major natural disasters around the world since the start of last year, offering help to affected nations and regions, according to a key figure in the project.

Guo Chaohui, a senior engineer at the China Center for Resources Satellite Data and Application, said on Sunday that the center arranged for Chinese satellites to take pictures and collect data from places that suffered from disasters upon receiving notification from the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters system and then provided the images to related nations and regions.

Chinese satellites took clear pictures in 24 of the disasters, including an earthquake in Indonesia last year and a cyclone that ravaged South Africa and Mozambique in April. In the other cases, the satellites failed to generate images due to natural interference such as thick clouds, he said.

"Currently, there are five Chinese satellites-the Gaofen 1, 2, 3 and 4 high-resolution Earth-observation satellites as well as the weather satellite Fengyun 3C-that are available for duties under the charter," Guo said.

Over the past two weeks, China's satellites took photographs of flood-stricken regions in India. China provided those images, together with previously taken pictures of the same places, to the Indian Space Research Organization to assist with the neighboring nation's recent flood relief efforts.

Vivek Singh, a spokesman for the space research group, told Xinhua on Thursday that India appreciated China's help in the disaster-relief efforts and that such mutual assistance was a good example of international cooperation.

As of Sunday, the death toll in India's flood-hit states had risen to more than 200. At least 11 million people have been directly affected.

The International Charter on Space and Major Disasters is a worldwide collaboration platform, through which satellite data are made available for the benefit of disaster management. It has 61 contributing satellites operated by 17 charter members, including the European Space Agency and United States Geological Survey.

China signed the charter in May 2007 and first called for assistance under the charter in July of that year when devastating floods ravaged central and eastern parts of the country, according to the China National Space Administration.

To date, China has invoked the charter 24 times and obtained a significant amount of satellite data for post-disaster relief efforts, according to information published on the charter's website.

The most recent time China activated the charter was in June last year when it asked for assistance to monitor a serious forest fire in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

For its part, China has offered satellite images that have helped in many natural disasters, such as the forest fires in southeast Australia in 2009, floods afflicting Pakistan in 2010 and the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in 2011. The nation also assisted multinational efforts to search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 in 2014.