EGU delegates map Zimbabwe to help Cyclone Idai recovery

First EGU mapathon tags more than 200 buildings in OpenStreetMap

Source: EGU delegates map Zimbabwe to help Cyclone Idai recovery – Physics World

EGU Mapathon
The Mapathon at this year’s EGU meeting. (Image courtesy: Liz Kalaugher)

Delegates at the EGU meeting labelled more than 200 buildings in pre-cyclone aerial images of Zimbabwe at the EGU’s first mapathon on Thursday evening. As Faith Taylor of the University of Portsmouth, UK, explained, adding this information to OpenStreetMap helps disaster relief services plan their response to Cyclone Idai, which hit Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi in late March.

The EGU attendees mapped buildings near the Zimbabwe border as part of Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Task 5907. At the start of the mapathon this area was around 65% mapped. Roughly an hour and a half later around 80% was completed, by both EGU delegates and volunteers online.

Most of Mozambique, where the cyclone first hit, has already been mapped in OpenStreetMap, with volunteers labelling buildings, roads and waterways.

Maps are essential to relief organizations looking to get shelter, food, water, health services and sanitation to survivors of disasters, as Edith Rogenhofer of MSF Austria told delegates. Staff from the Austrian Red Cross also visited to assist the mapathonners.

Conventional maps are expensive to make, go out of date, may have a commercial focus and aren’t always an exact representation as they may not include informal settlements, Taylor explained. OpenStreetMap is “Wikipedia meets GoogleMaps” and is often the most up to date map for the global south.

Taylor hopes that there will be a mapathon at next year’s EGU meeting and that delegates will organize mapathons in their own institutions too.