Powerful near real-time monitoring tool enables response to Mozambique floods

Published Mar 26, 2019

Flooding and damage from the tropical cyclone Idai is being tracked in near real time in Mozambique with a method developed at KTH Royal Institute of Technology.

This is the result.

About 90 percent of Mozambique’s fourth largest city, Beira, was destroyed on March 14 by winds reaching177 km/h. Shelter, food and water suddenly became critically scarce.

Yifang Ban, professor at the Department of Geoinformatics, KTH Royal Institute of Technology. Photo: Peter Ardell.

Researchers at KTH’s Department of Geoinformatics have developed a method for monitoring such floods, which provides emergency responders and relief agencies with mission-critical information.

Leading the research at KTH is Yifang Ban, professor at the Department of Geoinformatics. He says that the method uses data in the form of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and multispectral images (MSI) from ESA satellites Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2.

“SAR is capable of capturing images both day and night as well as through clouds,” Ban says. “The whole Earth can be covered and the resolution is very good. This means that we can help to identify disasters of Idai's caliber and be in support of the aid organizations that need it.”

By using SAR data before and during the cyclone Idai's advance, the KTH team was able to create an automatic method for detecting flooded areas both in terms of time and area.

"The preliminary result of our work shows that the combination of data from both satellites and our method seems very promising when it comes to near real-time close monitoring of disasters of this type," Ban says.

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has found the map products useful, and has asked for more maps using latest imageries to support their current operations.”

Picture show the flooding in Mozambique the 19th and 25th of March.

Sida finances the project

The project has been funded by Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency through a research project called "Capacity building in geographic information technologies for disaster and natural resource management". The project is a collaboration with Eduardo Mondlane University in Mozambique, Lund University and North West University in South Africa.

The long-term goal of the project is to help students from Mozambique to deepen their knowledge of geographical information systems and associated technologies. In this way, when they enter the workplace, the students are better prepared to tackle and deal with future natural disasters like Idai.

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Last changed: Mar 26, 2019