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International satellites supporting disaster management

The International Charter "Space and Major Disasters" is an international effort to put space technology at the service of rescue and emergency responders in the event of major disasters. With 17 Charter members and 61 contributing satellites from around the world, the Charter allows for resources and expertise to be organized for a quick response to catastrophic events. Member space agencies cooperate on a voluntary basis, with no exchange of funds, and each agency has devoted resources to support the Charter. Operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and at no cost to the user, the Charter mobilizes international partners, helping alleviate the effects of disasters on human life and property.

 Did you know?

  • Initiated in by the European Space Agency (ESA) and France's space agency, the Centre national d'études spatiales (CNES), the Charter was signed by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) in , making Canada a founding member.
  • The Charter came into effect on . From that date to , there were 678 activations in 126 countries, including 14 activations in Canada.
The International Charter “Space and Major Disasters”: A worldwide collaboration to save lives

This visual provides an overview of the International Charter "Space and Major Disasters." (Credit: CSA)

Text version - The International Charter "Space and Major Disasters": A worldwide collaboration for disaster relief

A worldwide collaboration for disaster relief

The Charter provides a unified system to make satellite data of affected areas available to support relief efforts. Timely, reliable and accurate information enables response teams to be better equipped to save lives and limit damage.

  • Founding members: ESA, CNES, CSA
  • 34 contributing satellites
  • Canada's participating satellites: RADARSAT-2 (launch: ) and RADARSAT Constellation Mission (launch: )
  • Effective since
  • Members cooperate on a voluntary basis, at no cost to the user
  • Activations from to :
    • 678 in 126 countries
    • 14 in Canada
  • 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Types of disasters: floods, cyclones/hurricanes, volcanoes, landslides, oil spills, earthquakes, tsunami
  • 17 members

When the Charter is activated, its members make satellite images of devastated regions available to support relief efforts. RADARSAT-2 imagery, and soon that of the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM), regularly provides support to rescue teams on the ground. Armed quickly with reliable and accurate information, response teams are better equipped to save lives and limit damage to property, infrastructure and the environment.

In spring , snowmelt and rain caused flooding in parts of the Canadian provinces of Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick. According to Statistics Canada, about 17,500 homes were either hit by flooding or considered to be at risk. Approximately 460 km of roadways were washed out and over 600 square km of land were flooded, including 153 square km of agricultural land. In Quebec, around 9,500 people were evacuated from their homes, while one person died in a flood-related road accident. Over 2,000 soldiers were deployed to the affected areas to help fill and distribute sandbags and assist residents.

Public Safety Canada, the Authorized User of the Charter for Canada, activated the Charter on . Two hundred and twenty-seven satellite products were provided by eight agencies. Natural Resources Canada produced 13 maps to support relief efforts.

Learn why satellites and satellite-based systems are indispensable tools to keep us safe.

Below is a list of all Charter activations where RADARSAT data was requested.

Explosions in Lebanon –

On , two powerful explosions, equivalent to a 3.3-magnitude earthquake, rocked Beirut, in the city's port and central district. At least 135 people were killed, 5,000 wounded and approximately 300,000 displaced from their homes. Rescue operations and an investigation into the causes are underway, and the city declared a two-week state of emergency.

More information on explosions in Lebanon.

Credit: CSA

Oil spill in Russia –

Russian authorities declared a state of emergency in a region of Siberia after 20,000 tonnes of diesel oil spilled from a power plant storage facility, leaking into the Ambarnaya River near the city of Norilsk.

More information on oil spill in Russia.

Credit: CSA

Flood – El Salvador –

Tropical Storm Amanda brought heavy rainfall to Central America, causing severe flooding in El Salvador. At least 15 people were killed and over 2,000 placed in emergency shelters.

More information on flood in El Salvador.

Credit: CSA

Cyclone Amphan – Bangladesh and India –

Cyclone Amphan made landfall in Bangladesh and India on , bringing high-speed winds and torrential rain. It damaged homes and crops, and destroyed power and communication lines. At least 95 people were killed. The evacuation of hundreds of thousands of affected people was complicated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

More information on Cyclone Amphan in Bangladesh.

More information on Cyclone Amphan in India.

Credit: NASA

Flood in Somalia –

Heavy rain caused flash floods in the Hiran and Gedo regions of Somalia, affecting tens of thousands of people.

More information on flood in Somalia.

Credit: CSA

Cyclone Harold in Vanuatu –

Cyclone Harold hit the Republic of Vanuatu, an archipelago of 83 islands in the South Pacific. Equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane, the cyclone brought winds of up to 265 km/h, striking the islands of Pentecost, Espiritu Santo and Malo. The storm damaged buildings, uprooted trees and cut off communications. No casualties have been reported. The situation is complicated by an already declared state of emergency due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Humanitarian workers cannot travel to Vanuatu, as they would be required to be quarantined for 14 days.

More information on Cyclone Harold in Vanuatu.


Flood in Zambia –

Heavy rain caused widespread flooding in northern parts of Zambia, affecting approximately 7,000 people.

More information on flood in Zambia.

Credit: CSA

Oil spill in the United Arab Emirates –

An oil spill hit the shores of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates (UAE), covering about 1.5 km of Al Aqah Beach.

More information on oil spill in the UAE.

Credit: CSA

Flood and landslides in Bolivia –

Heavy rains caused the Taquiña River to burst its banks, flooding areas of Tiquipaya in the Cochabamba Department and triggering landslides. Almost 100 homes were damaged, affecting over 300 people. While no casualties were reported, at least 30 people were treated for injuries.

More information on flood and landslides in Bolivia.

Credit: CSA

Flood and landslides in Madagascar –

Heavy rains caused flooding and landslides across seven regions of Madagascar. Over 30 people were killed and at least 16,000 displaced. The rains also destroyed rice fields, prompting the Office of Disaster Risk Management to issue a food insecurity alert for coming months.

More information on flood and landslides in Madagascar.

Credit: CSA

Flood and landslides in Brazil –

Torrential rains triggered flooding and landslides in southeast Brazil. At least 62 people were killed and over 30,000 were displaced. More than 100 municipalities announced states of emergency.

More information on flood and landslides in Brazil.

Credit: CSA

Flood in Zambia –

Heavy rain caused flooding in Zambia, displacing around 500 people in the country's Eastern Province. Flooding was also reported in Zambia's Southern Province, destroying crops in an area already experiencing a shortage of food.

More information on flood in Zambia.

Credit: CSA

Heavy snowfall in Pakistan –

Heavy snowfall affected Pakistan, triggering avalanches. At least 105 people died and 96 were injured. Around 1,300 houses were damaged and a state of emergency was declared in 11 districts.

More information on snowfall in Pakistan.

Credit: CSA

Volcano eruption in the Philippines –

The Taal Volcano, located 60 km south of the Philippines' capital Manila, began erupting on . While not very big, the volcano is considered among the world's most dangerous due to the number of people who live nearby. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology ordered a total evacuation of everyone within a 17-km radius of the volcano, which is close to one million people. Spreading volcanic ash prompted a suspension of all flights at Manila's international airport on .

More information on volcano eruption in the Philippines.

Credit: CSA

Flood and landslides in Indonesia –

Heavy rains caused flash flooding and landslides in and around Indonesia's capital Jakarta, inundating entire neighbourhoods. At least 66 people were killed and tens of thousands were displaced.

More information on flood and landslides in Indonesia.

Credit: CSA

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