Bringing science and development together through news and analysis

  • Earthquake aid efforts hindered by image ban

Pakistan's government has forced international agencies to remove from their websites satellite pictures of the areas hit by the 8 October earthquake.

A senior official at the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters told Nature that Pakistan feared the images might compromise security in Kashmir — territory that has long been fought over by India and Pakistan.

International aid agencies were obliged to comply, said the official, because they need the government's cooperation to help those affected by the earthquake.

But local relief organisations need access to the images to pinpoint badly affected areas and navigable roads.

When Hurricane Katrina hit the United States in August, academics and Internet users rapidly gathered vast amounts of satellite data, which relief workers could view using software freely available online.

But since the Pakistan earthquake, Internet users have not been able to do as much. This has led Pakistani relief workers to write to organisations such as NASA, pleading for access to updated images.

Link to full Nature news story

Editor's note: On Thursday, Nature reported that the UN had restored online access to satellite images of the disaster area.

Link to full Nature news story