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Malawi and Mozambique floods captured from space
Heavy rains following cyclone Bansi have caused devastating floods in Southern Malawi and central Mozambique along the Shire, an important tributary to the Zambezi River. According to sources in Malawi the floods are the worst in more than 20 years resulting in more than 200 deaths, massive destruction of infrastructure and agricultural fields as well as raising fears of a large-scale cholera outbreak.
The Zambezi river basin experiences a number of natural disasters with floods being the most devastating. There is great need to reduce and manage the risk of the effects of such natural disasters, because they leave a trail of destruction that disrupts peoples. livelihood and the economic growth in the basin and the southern African region as a whole.
It is for this reason that the floods in Malawi and Mozambique are being monitored closely by the newly established permanent Zambezi Watercourse Commission (ZAMCOM) Secretariat through the use of the Water Observation and Information System (WOIS) where free radar satellite images from the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission are being converted into maps showing the development and current extent of the floods.
The information gathered is important to better assess the flood situation in the development of an operational flood forecasting tool for the organisation. With this system ZAMCOM will be able to predict water levels and possible floods in advance using state-of-the-art modelling tools.
As Professor Zeb Phiri, the Executive Secretary of the ZAMCOM Secretariat explains: Disaster risk reduction and management is a cornerstone of the ZAMCOM agreement and the flood maps derived from WOIS make an important contribution to the current enhancement of the Zambezi Water Information System (ZAMWIS) and towards the implementation of a fully operational Decision Support Systems for flood forecasting and early warning in the Zambezi river basin.
In Malawi, heavy rains returned over the weekend and the space based monitoring of the flood situation will therefore continue over the coming days and weeks. Radar satellite images allow following the flooding event independent of weather and clouds, which is why the open and free data of the Sentinel-1 mission is essential for water authorities for their monitoring purposes.
The Water Observation and Information System (WOIS) is an open source software tool developed under the TIGER-NET project funded by the European Space Agency, with the main goal of supporting satellite-based assessment and monitoring of water resources in Africa.
TIGER Initiative: http://www.tiger.esa.int
Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Observing_the_Earth/Copernicus/Sentinel-1