Adam Lewis, group leader of National Earth Observation of Geoscience Australia (GA), confirmed with China’s official press agency Xinhua last Wednesday that, in the previous six days, GA has been receiving two daily passes of satellite images from China. Those images are used to build up the mapping of the bushfires, which have been burning across New South Wales.
Under the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters, of which both China and Australia are signatories, participating countries will provide space satellite data to relief organisations in the event of major disasters for free at the request of the afflicted country.
According to Xinhua, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang last Friday sent a message to Prime Minister Tony Abbott over the unfolding bushfire crisis, expressing sincere sympathies to the Australian government and people over the mishap.
The premier pledged that China is willing to provide necessary assistance to Australia for disaster relief in accordance with Australia’s need.
The Chinese Embassy was then contacted by Australian officials for the provision of satellite imagery, vital to the monitoring and fighting of bushfires.
Mr Lewis said when pictures are received, scientists in GA use them to identify where a fire is at a particular time, helping to detect any fires, and help with the analysis of the impact.
China first supplied satellite imagery to Australia for the devastating 2009 Victorian bushfires.
“The 2009 response from China has led to a growing professional relationship between GA and agencies in China that do this remote sensing. So we built professional relationship as a consequence of that efforts,” Mr Lewis said.
“The 2009 response certainly raised our awareness of China’s growing capability in providing satellite images in disastrous situations,” he added.