The Italian region of Emilia-Romagna experienced severe floods in May 2023, causing loss of life, displacement of thousands, and estimated damages of €8.8 billion. As the region continues to cope with the aftermath, satellites have played a vital role in assessing the extent of the damages.
Between May 16 and 18, 2023, Emilia-Romagna received an unprecedented amount of rainfall, equivalent to six months’ worth, within just 36 hours. This resulted in the overflow of 23 rivers, affecting 100 municipalities and causing over 400 landslides that damaged and closed hundreds of roads.
The floods were preceded by a drought that reduced the land’s ability to absorb water.
Earth observation imagery and data are essential for emergency services as they enable the assessment of potential impacts and assist in emergency management. Additionally, they support post-event analysis and damage assessment.
The SaferPlaces platform, co-funded by the ESA InCubed program, has been utilized by the Civil Protection of Emilia-Romagna to generate flood water and depth maps for making crucial decisions and assessing damages in the affected areas. The platform combines satellite, climate data, and AI-based models in a cloud computing environment to provide insights into areas prone to flooding worldwide.
The SaferPlaces platform utilized AI-based algorithms to process terrain data and information on flooded areas obtained from various satellite sources such as Copernicus Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2, CosmoSky-Med, Planet, and SPOT. Local municipality data and information from the Emilia-Romagna Civil Protection were also integrated to enhance accuracy.
Maps displaying the extent of the flooded areas in the most affected municipalities, including Faenza, Cesena, Forlì, and Conselice, were generated, providing crucial information for a preliminary Flood Damage Assessment. These satellite-based water depth maps were used to estimate the economic losses of affected buildings.
Claudia Vezzani, Technical Manager of the Hydraulic Risk Area of the Civil Protection Agency of Emilia-Romagna, emphasized the value of SaferPlaces technology and Earth observation data in supporting disaster analysis and the computation of economic losses.
The satellite-based flood masks were compared with maps produced by the Copernicus Emergency Management Service, which was activated to monitor the flood and landslide extent in the region. Radar data from Sentinel-1 and optical data from Sentinel-2 were combined with data from other sources.
Stefano Bagli, CEO of GECOSistema and SaferPlaces project manager, highlighted the effectiveness of the SaferPlaces platform and Earth observation satellite data in supporting post-disaster evaluation and damage assessment analysis.
Satellites map aftermath of Emilia-Romagna floods (2023, July 21)
retrieved 22 July 2023
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