- NASA has printed data from satellite images to show the true extent of Beirut’s damage following an explosion that shook the city last week.
- By comparing before and after images, the system can detect where the most serious damage occurred.
- Maps like this help emergency responders direct resources to areas where survivors can expect to be rescued.
Last week a devastating explosion shook the city of Beirut. It happened near the Port of Beirut, and there are many eyewitness accounts and videos showing the intense explosion as well as the aftermath from the ground. It was a tragedy that destroyed over 100 lives and injured countless others, and the cleanup and repairs will definitely take years to complete.
NASA landing satellites are often used to observe changes in large areas, such as melting glaciers or the effects of fires. Now, in partnership with the Earth Observatory in Singapore, NASA has used data from these high-flying observatories to produce a map showing how widespread the devastation is in Beirut.
By comparing previous satellite images of the same region with new images taken after the explosion, NASA systems can detect large and small changes in the landscape. This includes things like dilapidated buildings and changes in the geography of the area. The system tags every spot where it notices a change, and the darker the pixel, the more dramatic the damage.
NASA’s Advanced Imaging and Rapid Analysis Team (ARIA), in collaboration with the Singapore Earth Observatory, used synthetic radar data leaked from satellites to plot the potential extent of damage from a massive explosion of August 4 in Beirut, “NASA explains in a new blog post. “Synthetic space-opening radar data show changes in the earth’s surface before and after a major event such as an earthquake. In this case, it is being used to indicate the destructive result of an explosion. “
When generating maps like this, it is not just for the purpose of looking at how bad things are. Destruction levels in any given area can be a great indicator for emergency personnel who want to try to find survivors among the debris. When damage is widespread, it is sometimes not clear where emergency responders should focus, but these maps act as a guide to push them in the right direction.
The explosion reportedly occurred when a massive stockpile of ammonium nitrate caught fire. 2,750 tons of chemicals were stored in a warehouse near the port for nearly six years. In agriculture, it is often used as a fertilizer, but it is also very explosive in the right conditions. As reports of casualties are constantly changing, the blast may have killed about 220 people, with at least 100 others still missing from the surrounding area.