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Mapping Disasters

October 5, 2010

Google Earth is making it easier to locate survivors of natural disasters.


Spotting disasters from space. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Google Maps is a popular tool for finding an address and getting directions; Google Earth is the 3D spinning globe version you can download. Eric Kolb is a geologist working at Google—he says that increasingly, the tool is being used to help relief efforts when disasters strike in remote areas, like Haiti.

ERIC KOLB (Google):
There was no access to roads for quite a long period of time after the earthquakes. So with the imagery data that we were able to provide, we were able to pinpoint exactly where the refugees essentially were staying and trying to get shelter. And so it allowed the emergency response teams to go directly to where the people were.

The images come from NASA satellites; Google Earth provides a user-friendly way to view and use them. Most recently, they’ve teamed up to help relief workers find flooded villages and refugees in Pakistan. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.