#HurricaneIrma, #Caribbean, #TheInternationalCharteronSpaceandMajorDisasters, #AntiguaandBarbuda, #Turks&Caicos, #DominicanRepublic, #Haiti, #Canada'sRadarsat-2, #MichelDoyon, #CanadianSpaceAgency, #SyntheticApertureRadar, #SAR, #NASA, #DavidGreen
Toronto, Oct 2 (Canadian-Media): When Caribbean -- a region that consists of the Caribbean Sea, its islands and the surrounding coasts -- was hit by Hurricane Irma leading to its destruction last month, authorities on the ground were baffled with endless questions and trying to look for information, media reports said.
Hurricane Irma, reportedly the strongest hurricane observed in the Atlantic since Wilma in 2005 in terms of maximum sustained winds, is an extremely strong and catastrophic hurricane,
Satellites from several nations, including Canada were reportedly asked to track the hurricane's progress and measure the damage to provide vital information for recovery efforts and rescue planning.
A global agreement between Emergency officials in the U.S. and the Caribbean had been in place for nearly two decades.
International Charter on Space and Major Disasters (ICSMD) reportedly provides civil protection agencies in disaster-stricken regions and government and private space agencies free access to data gathered by satellites.
ICSMD, is a non-binding agreement accounting for transmission of space satellite data to relief organizations in the event of major disasters.
In the case of Hurricane Irma, officials in Antigua and Barbuda, the Turks & Caicos and Dominican Republic received information from Canada's Radarsat-2 after it passed over the region, official reports said.
Canada's Radarsat-2 reportedly is an Earth observation satellite that was successfully launched December 14, 2007 for the Canadian Space Agency by Starsem, using a Soyuz FG launch vehicle, from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome.
Antigua and Barbuda, known reportedly for reef-lined beaches, rainforests and resort is an independent Commonwealth country situated at the meeting point of the Atlantic and Caribbean.
Turks & Caicos, according to official reports, is an archipelago of 40 low-lying coral islands in the Atlantic Ocean, a British Overseas Territory southeast of the Bahamas.
Dominican Republic is, the official reports said, a Caribbean nation that shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti to the west.
Canada's Radarsat-2: Courtesy of CSA
Owned by MacDonald, Detwiller and Associates (MDA) and operated, in part, by the Canadian Space Agency, Radarsat reportedly provided Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery which can see through cloud formations and monitor flooding, landslides and destruction brought on by hurricanes and heavy storms.
Canada's Radarsat-2 satellite is Canada's eye in the sky during natural disasters.
"Sometimes having a view from space is a definite advantage. It's instrumental in planning emergency rescues. It provides a global view. It's instrumental in planning emergency rescues," Michel Doyon, manager of flight operations at the Canadian Space Agency was quoted by the media.
The international charter was established in the year 2000 with the Canadian Space Agency, official reports said -- which coordinates all civil, space-related programs on behalf of the Government of Canada -- among its founding members.
Today, space agencies in China, Japan, Germany, the U.S. and several other countries have reportedly signed on.
In May this agreement was activated by Canada, reports said, in response to flooding in Quebec and Ontario.
The charter was invoked 37 times in 2016 and has already surpassed that number this year.
The charter had been reportedly activated yet again, since Hurricane Irma, to monitor the aftermath of Hurricane Maria and the devastating earthquake in Mexico City.
This year satellites have been called to monitor forest fires, cyclones and other disasters around the globe.
For emergency officials dealing with disasters, there are other resources available as well. The European Union and European Space Agency operate the Copernicus Emergency Management Service. The U.S. space agency, NASA, works closely with charter members but also has its own disaster assistance plan with a fleet of satellites that track storms, map rainfall patterns and conduct detailed radar imagery around the globe, said official reports.
"We are monitoring the planet completely every day for a whole variety of different information," David Green, manager of NASA's disaster program was quoted by the media.
"We make it readily available. It's free and open, all the data and imagery from NASA."
Green said that the charter was a valuable tool and added satellite imagery can play a vital role in planning and responding to disasters.
Often the challenge is turning data collected from space into useful intelligence, continued Green for rescue and recovery workers operating in disaster areas.
"People have very complicated data and imagery, and it means a lot to the science community. But if you ask a disaster manager, they may have a very simple question. They may be asking simply, 'Where's the water? Where's the storm?"
"They don't need a lot of complicated information. They need it distilled down to knowing what to look for," Media quoted Green as saying.
NASA had been working, said Green to translate satellite data more accessible and understandable.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)