When disaster strikes, as it did this summer in Pakistan, knowing where to focus rescue and relief efforts is critical to saving lives. But when such disasters occur, information systems can be among the first casualties. An initiative launched today in Kathmandu is intended to help:  SERVIR is a new regional satellite observation, monitoring and visualisation system that uses NASA technologies to improve access to information for scientists, researchers, governments and the general public.

Similar systems in Africa and Central America have already demonstrated their value in disaster management. During tropical storm Agatha in May, for instance, SERVIR allowed rescue efforts to be directed towards hard hit communities in remote mountain areas in Guatemala and Southern Mexico.

Over the coming months, the Himalayan system will be customised to provide data on the observation of glaciers, transboundary air quality and disaster monitoring. It will integrate the disaster monitoring work that the Kathmandu based organisation ICIMOD (International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development) started in response to the Pakistan flood disaster earlier this year, providing local disaster relief and rescue teams with daily updates of flooded areas.

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