Space images show relentless Bangladeshi floods
2004 07 27
Satellite images have revealed the devastating impact of recent flooding in Bangladesh, with two thirds of country submerged in water.
Flooding is shown as dark blue and bright white to highlight two ways in which the satellite Aqua can spot ground water (Image: NASA GSFC)
Pictures taken by the NASA satellite Aqua on 22 July show water covering areas of Bangladesh and eastern India.
Three weeks worth of torrential rain have resulted in the worst flooding that the impoverished nation has seen for 15 years. So far, 400 people have been killed by drowning, collapsing buildings and disease resulting from the floods.
The Aqua satellite images were captured using the spacecraft's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS). This instrument provides high resolution images in 36 spectral bands across a range of wavelengths.
In one image produced by MODIS - coloured to show different spectral signatures - vast regions of flooding are shown across Bangladesh. The flooding is shaded as both dark blue and white. Blue represents the spectral signature of water while white represents light from the Sun reflected by ground water.
While the flood waters have abated in the northern districts in the past few days, the situation is not expected to improve elsewhere for at least a week. This is because the sea level is not expected to drop until the next full moon on 2 August.
The weather forecast also provides little hope of improvement. Experts at the Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre in Dhaka said the situation could potentially get worse, with more monsoon rain expected from Wednesday.
Bangladesh normally experiences heavy flooding during the monsoon season, and around 20 per cent of the low-lying country is submerged annually.
The Asian monsoon season is generated by an annual weather change in southern Asia that heats large areas of land mass. Because ocean regions remain much cooler, the temperature difference forces cool, moist air to rush inland, bringing with it torrential rains. However, the distribution of these rains is always different.
Across Bangladesh about 20 million people have reportedly been displaced by the flooding. Agriculture officials say crops worth $380 million have also been ruined.
In the capital city of Dhaka more than 100,000 people have been moved into high-rise buildings to escape the rising waters. A large proportion of the city's population has even been forced to travel to work by boat. And water has wrecked the capital's sewage system, raising the threat of water borne diseases.
"Conditions are getting worse every day. The water is rising and bringing in more filth," Abu Kalam, a government official in Dhaka told Reuters. "We are living in an open sewer."
Thus far, however, the government has refused to call for international assistance in dealing with the disaster, saying its own relief services can deal adequately. Several NGO's have since asked the government to reconsider. It is the country's worst flooding since the worst ever in 1988 when 3500 people died.
Throughout southern Asia at least 1000 people are believed to have died as a result of the flooding. This includes 400 people in India's eastern state of Bihar and 170 people in East Indian state of Assam.
"There is an acute scarcity of baby food," said Assam's health minister Bhumidhar Burman on Tuesday. "Over 500,000 babies affected during the floods are starving."
Article From: http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99996205