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GÉANT and ORIENT – enabling faster disaster relief after Sichuan earthquake

Aiding relief work by underpinning collaboration and transmitting vital high resolution satellite images from Europe to China

In May 2008 a devastating earthquake struck Sichuan in China. Measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale, it was so strong that the tremor was felt across the entire country, with buildings in Beijing, 1,500km away, swaying due to the earthquake. Over 68,000 people died and a further 4.8 million were left homeless.

Protecting from risk
Analysing the impact of the earthquake and helping plan reconstruction work demanded a truly international collaboration. Europe was heavily involved, with the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Italy providing high-resolution satellite images of unexplored areas devastated by the earthquake, supplied directly to those leading relief work in China. This was used to determine the severity of damage to towns and cities, and to help protect the area from further risk when rebuilding began. 

Transmitting such large, high resolution images relied upon the pan-European GÉANT research network and the ORIENT circuit which links GÉANT to Chinese researchers. The high capacity and performance of these networks allowed the JRC to work alongside researchers from the Centre for Earth Observation and Digital Earth (Chinese Academy of Sciences), helping in the vital disaster relief and reconstruction of the area. 

The Challenge
Aid vital disaster relief and reconstruction work in Sichuan, China by quickly sharing high resolution satellite images between Europe and China following the devastating May 2008 earthquake.

The Solution
The combination of the pan-European, high capacity GÉANT network and the ORIENT Europe/China link enabled fast transmission of critical satellite images from Italy directly to those leading the relief work.

Key Benefits
Access via GÉANT and ORIENT to satellite images from unexplored areas of destruction in Sichuan made it possible for the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology to determine the severity of damage, and to help protect the area from further risk when rebuilding began.

“Modern communication networks such as GÉANT and ORIENT are essential for an effective and speedy collaboration between the European Commission's researchers and local government in the wake of the Sichuan earthquake in China. In such a situation of natural and human disaster, we cannot afford to rely on conventional means of communication, such as fax and post, but need modern tools for carrying out a proper analysis within short deadlines. GÉANT and ORIENT provide the bandwidth to transport high-detail images, thereby making an important contribution to speeding up the reconstruction of infrastructure and to saving human lives.” 

Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media 

Partners in the project: