Natural disasters occur yearly on all continents, leaving hundreds of thousands dead and turning millions into refugees. In 1999, as a result of Hurricane Mitch in Central America, the International Charter ‘Space and Major Disasters’ was initiated to provide aid workers with satellite data over affected areas.
The Charter was founded by ESA and the French space agency, CNES, and formally began operating in October 2000. The Charter supports relief efforts and allows registered users to request and access free satellite data over stricken regions.
As of 1 October 2010, the Charter has provided satellite data of more than 300 disaster events, like earthquakes, hurricanes, cyclones, floods and fires, spanning nearly 100 countries.