I published this article last Jan, 25 2012 in the Humanitarian OSM Team blog. I am re-posting it here a year after Sendong ravaged Cagayan de Oro and Iligan. It is very unfortunate that almost a year after, we are again in the middle of a crisis brought about by Typhoon Pablo/Bopha. This time, Iligan and Cagayan de Oro suffered minimal damage, but other parts of Mindanao and its banana industry bore the brunt of the storm and the looming humanitarian crisis. Once again, the OSM community is supporting international relief agencies by providing updated geographic information in the affected areas.
Northern Mindanao (specifically Cagayan de Oro and Iligan) was ravaged by flash floods last December 2011. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) initially reported 900 people have been killed, over 1,500 have been injured and almost 285,000 are served inside and outside 62 evacuation centers
In the first few days after the disaster, we’ve seen very little demand to provide updated OSM dataset because the primary focus is on relief and donation (and
rightly so). However, on the long term basis, we believe that OSM can provide better data as disaster in our county is happening on an annual basis.
We shared the availability of our data (which were already comprehensive prior to the disaster) to several humanitarian groups involved in the disaster areas. The UN-OCHA Philippine division responded and took interest in using OSM data in their situational maps. They find our road data as a good resource in geocoding the location of evacuation centers provided by responders on the ground.
As the UN-OCHA started using our data, several HOTties started improving the road and river data within Cagayan de Oro and Iligan. Bing imagery while already available, have limited coverage. In order to support remote mappers, we started the rectification of publicly available satellite imagery from Sentinel Asia. A few days after, imagery are now available both in the immediate disaster area including the remote mountains were the headwaters of the flooded rivers are located.
More and more humanitarian groups are now using the data we created (both OSM’s shapefile extracts and the imagery we rectified). This includes MapAction and the International Organization for Migration. Additionally some research groups are now interested in using not only the data we created but the processes we used in order to rapidly provide basic geographic data for the ground responders.
This activation didn’t have any HOT “personnel” on the ground. However, the data we shared and the rapid coordination we demonstrated in generating updated geodata enabled field responders to focus on the immediate tasks on the ground.
It’s been more than a month since the floods, the situation is not yet normal. Much work is needed on the ground. The national government already declared “no go” zones along the flooded riverbanks. This requires finding suitable resettlement locations for the victims and discourage habitation within the danger zones. OSM and HOT have started informal relations to several groups, this is due to steadfast commitment of the HOT OSM volunteers. Even if the initial relief operations have subsided, we will continue supporting the recovery activities by providing useful geographic information to the humanitarian groups on the ground.