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Satellite images reveal full extent of destruction following Italy’s earthquake

Amatrice as of 25 August: red shows destroyed buildings, orange highly damaged.
Aug 30 2016

Over the weekend, the European Commission has published accurate maps of the damage caused by the catastrophic earthquake that hit central Italy on 24 August. The maps were produced by the Copernicus Emergency Management Service (EMS) Mapping, at request of the Italian authorities to support a preliminary assessment of the damage.

The Copernicus Emergency Management Service (EMS) Mapping is the European operational mapping service aimed at providing civil protection authorities and humanitarian aid agencies with timely and relevant satellite (remotely sensed) information in emergency contexts, such as natural and man-made disasters, as well as humanitarian conflicts. The JRC is responsible for the technical coordination of the EMS.

The service can be activated in case of an emergency. Following a request of the Italian Civil Protection, the service was activated few hours after the event and the first maps were available less than 24h from the occurrence of the earthquake; a larger set of maps produced in the following days provided accurate identification of the affected zones.

Nearly 300 people died and hundreds were injured when a 6.0-magnitude earthquake struck in the early hours of Wednesday, 24 August, 100km north-east of Rome. The areas worst hit are Amatrice, Accumoli, Arquata del Tronto and Pescara del Tronto.

The most affected villages were covered first with satellite imagery on the very day of the disaster. To provide even more detailed damaged assessment aerial images with spatial resolution of 10 cm were also acquired the following day. More than 50 post-disaster maps were produced. The maps show the overview of the most affected areas and provide basic statistics on the damage grade on buildings and infrastructure. In addition to the Italian Civil Protection, the maps were used by several news portals to inform about the extent of the damage.

Amatrice as of 25 August: red shows destroyed buildings, orange highly damaged.
Amatrice as of 25 August: red shows destroyed buildings, orange highly damaged.

©EU, 2016


The JRC works in several areas related to disaster risk reduction, including supporting competent authorities in responding to disasters by providing rapid and relevant information depicting the situation in the wake of a disaster. The JRC uses remote sensing technologies to support emergency mapping and damage assessment. All the maps provided by the EMS services are freely available on the EMS portal.

The JRC supported the European Emergency Response and Coordination Centre (ERCC) of the European Commission since the first hours after the event by providing analysis and situation maps before the satellite images were available. This first information is compiled thanks to physical sensors of seismological institutes (epicentre, magnitude, location of the main event and various aftershocks) as well as shake-maps that estimate the area mostly hit by the earthquake. Additional information is collected through media news and social media (e.g. Twitter analysis). Shortly after the earthquake, the geological risk is also estimated, taking into account whether the event was expected and whether there were other significant events in the same area, as well as the current meteorological conditions.

A report with dedicated analyses was provided by 12:30 CET on 24th August in order to present the current situation and allow ERCC to take the necessary actions, including the ordering of the Copernicus EMS satellite images products.