In early March, the MapQuest Open Data Initiative team launched a new country-specific site for Japan: open.mapquest.jp. As we quietly finished up the details of launching the site and how best to announce it – the massive and terribly destructive earthquake off the southeast coast of Japan occurred on March 11, 2011. With this horrible natural disaster unfolding, the world, collectively, took a step back in shock and horror. The tsunami that was unfurled in every direction across the Pacific Ocean caused massive devastation along coastlines, with the aftershocks exacerbating damage in Japan.
The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) quickly captured post-quake satellite imagery that could be used for tracing in OpenStreetMap (OSM). MapQuest opened its servers for use by the global crisis mapping community (using JOSM and Potlatch 2) for the sole purpose of supporting emergency relief and recovery operations in Northern Japan with this new imagery on March 14, 2011.
The collaboratively editable OSM project has previously been used by international responders to help save lives during the aftermath of last year’s earthquake in Haiti. This new post-earthquake imagery in Japan helps users crowd-source information, based on the imagery and news reports of which roads have been destroyed, where the hospitals are and other helpful information to produce real-time data and accurate maps for use by emergency responders. OSM Japan setup a crisis website (in Japanese and English) to help with the efforts.
The worldwide community quickly became involved, from OSM mappers to the New York Times:
- Quick tally of how many mappers pitched in: 218 users edited 389,431 nodes (points) from March 10 – March 16, 2011
- Screen captures (using JOSM) of map edits in Japan visually displaying the map edits
- Aerial imagery showing before and after the earthquake and tsunami
To get involved with the disaster relief mapping effort, follow this link detailing how to help.