Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010

Google's Satellite Images of the Haiti Earthquake

In the aftermath of Haiti's massive 7.0 earthquake, Google and the satellite-imagery company GeoEye were asked by aid organizations to take a new series of images of the Port-au-Prince area to give crisis responders (and the curious) a bird's-eye view of the damage to the city. The updated images were released late Wednesday, Jan. 13, providing a sobering look at the challenges facing Haitians and rescue workers on the scene. From the sky, the damage is clear: the city's infrastructure has crumbled, with toppled buildings and streets strewn with debris.

Want to explore the images for yourself? If you have the Google Earth application on your computer, you can download the new imagery here, or you can view the file online using Google Maps, no installation necessary.

The updated images span some 19 miles across Port-au-Prince, detailing some of the hardest-hit areas. Google has already highlighted some of the city's landmarks. You can view the country's presidential palace (at 18.543197, -72.338714, now cracked), Sylvio Cator Stadium (at 18.536074, -72.343410, strewn with debris) and other locations throughout the city and suburbs. Even from above, it's easy to make out crowds of people dotting the city's main thoroughfares.

In a blog post, Google reported that the updated images were taken Wednesday, Jan. 13, at approximately 10:27 a.m. ET. The company first took an interest in mapping Haiti after a deadly hurricane struck the island in 2008. In the wake of that tragedy, as with this one, Google encouraged rescue organizations and people on the scene to use Google Map Maker to aid in the logistics of delivering help and supplies to the city by marking locations and landmarks. Any shared data are made available to the United Nations.