When a natural disaster strikes, satellites provide a fast and accurate way to get information about the nature and extent of damage. In 1999, the Canadian Space Agency was one of the original signatories of the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters, along with the European and French space agencies. Other space powers such as China, India, Japan and the United States have since joined. The Charter provides a 24-hour on-duty operator to respond immediately to calls from public safety officials in the case of flooding, hurricanes, forest fires and other disasters. Images are then obtained using whichever international satellites are available in the affected region, and are delivered in less than 48 hours. During the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, more than 200 satellite images were acquired through this system. Recent uses of this system in Canada include flooding in New Brunswick in April 2008, and sea ice trapping about 100 ships off the coast of Newfoundland in April 2007.
This slideshow contains three images depicting disasters as viewed from space. The first image shows flooding of the Saint John River in New Brunswick in 2008. Clicking on this image provides a zoomed in image of the flood plain. The second image illustrates the same flooded areas as compared to 2006. The last shows 100 ships trapped in sea ice off the coast of Newfoundland in 2007.