Monday, January 18, 2010

Locating Landslide Risks in Post-Quake Haiti

Landslides are a potential threat for Haiti following the Jan. 12 earthquake. Mountainous areas surrounding Port-au-Prince may be subject to landslides after the quake shatters the rock substrate and exposes areas to severe erosion. The risk of further erosion and slope failure increases with the subsequent loss of vegetation combined with intense rainfall events that are typical of Haiti’s tropical environment.

Analysis of NASA satellite images showing areas of landslide risk have been shared with regional and international humanitarian assistance groups to assist those agencies with pinpointing their disaster relief efforts and anticipating further damages due to landslides.

The NASA satellite image analysis (see below) was produced by CATHALAC, the Spanish acronym for the Water Center for Humid Tropics of Latin America and the Caribbean. From its regional headquarters in Panama City, Panama, CATHALAC is one of the main implementing agencies for SERVIR, the Regional Visualization & Monitoring System for Mesoamerica and the Dominican Republic. SERVIR is supported by NASA and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Since SERVIR’s establishment in Mesoamerica in 2005, the system has served as a virtual observatory of the region’s atmosphere and terrestrial and marine environment. For more information, visit

NASA’s Earth Observing-1 satellite with the Advanced Land Imager captured images of Haiti on Jan. 15, three days after the devastating 7.0 earthquake rocked Port-au-Prince and the surrounding area. The locations of possible landslide areas (left panel, purple) were identified by comparing this new image with archived imagery. The 7.0 epicenter of the quake is located to the southwest of Port-au-Prince near the town of Henry. Nearby aftershocks ranging from 4.1 to 6.0 are also shown in this image. Regions subject to severe erosion are in indicated in green in the right panel.

A close-up view of the area around Henry, Haiti, showing possible landslide areas (purple outlines) identified in analyses of images from NASA’s EO-1 satellite . This information has been shared with national authorities as well as regional and international humanitarian assistance groups.

For more information visit

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