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Disaster Response: Typhoons, Tsunami, Ebola, Friaje and More

In 2018, the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) responded to more incidents than any year ever before; 24 disaster responses. Many have been reported on before, so here we will look at just the last half of the year.

In 2018, the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) responded to more incidents than any year ever before; 24 disaster responses. Many have been reported on before, so here we will look at just the last half of the year.

In July there were torrential rains in Southeast Asia. For Laos, this caused a major dam collapse, killing many and displacing thousands downstream. In response, the HOT community was able to map the area quickly; adding about 280 kilometers of road and over 4000 structures.

We also got a bit of a different request in July. Unidad 4x4 de Ayuda-Perú was preparing to deliver supplies to villages high in the Andes Mountains cut-off by brutal winter weather, known locally as a Friaje. Although the area requested was not very big or populated, we had little time before the mission was to begin. Just in time, 38 mappers were able to come together and digitize the roughly 650 kilometers of road network and several thousand buildings trapped by the storm.

Rains continued in Asia, in August the first of what would become many responses in India this year, was for the Kerala region. As several other areas also flooded this response was still concluding when Cyclone Gaja hit in November. As many of those responses are still active, led locally and tracked separately; we do not have good statistics for India disaster response in 2018.

In September we had more issues with water and weather; responding to floods in Guinea - which is still an ongoing recovery mapping project. And, we would watch Cylone Mangkhut pass over the Mariana Islands where we had mapped before, before becoming Super Typhoon Ompong. Just recently we finished the mapping requested by the local Philippine community for Ompong’s impact there. 500 contributors mapped 4417 kilometers of roads and over 515,000 structures for the Philippines.

We also supported a few disasters in Indonesia and Mexico in response to earthquakes and flooding in Veracruz. Most significantly the two areas in Indonesia hit by tsunamis: one following an earthquake in November on Sulawesi island, and recently the tsunami that followed the eruption of the Krakatoa Volcano in the Sunda Strait - impacting both Java and Sumatra islands. The response to the latter incident is still active, and so far, 175 contributors have helped add 467 kilometers of road network and over 67,000 buildings.

Last, and potentially most important, the mapping to fight Ebola has not stopped since earlier in the year. In September it became even more significant as the risk for the disease to move from the Democratic Republic of Congo, to Uganda, was high. As of the beginning of December 2018, we have collectively mapped almost 400,000 features - including over 8000 kilometers of road network and 300,000 buildings.

There may not be a lot of hope for less disasters in 2019, but over 1700 individuals have contributed to the Ebola response alone, and that should give us all hope for our ability to continue to respond and help those in need for many years to come.