When floods overwhelmed Pakistan’s response capacities in 2022, authorities requested help from the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. Guided by the EU’s satellite maps, Denmark stepped up to offer aid.
The frequency and severity of extreme weather events, such as heavy floods, have increased due to the devastating effects of climate change. In Pakistan, record-breaking rainfall caused devastating floods in 2022.
The floods submerged farmland, displaced families, destroyed public infrastructure, and placed severe pressure on the country’s already fragile water system. Local people struggled to find safe drinking water, which increased the risk of waterborne illnesses and child mortality.
Following a request from Pakistani authorities, the EU’s Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) coordinated incoming aid offers from EU Member States and participating states in the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. They mobilised tents, hygiene kits, doctors, medical supplies and more.
Denmark sent in their water purification team to ensure that clean water could be provided to people in the area as quickly as possible.
Looking out for workers on the ground
To help teams on the ground, the EU used the Copernicus Emergency Management Service (CEMS) – a service providing detailed geo-spatial information – to monitor the developing situation.
“We use models and satellite observations to see warning signs,” explains Peter Salamon, coordinator of the CEMS at the EU’s science service in Ispra, Italy.
“The Global Flood Awareness System, which is part of CEMS, helps us predict the amount of water that flows – or is forecasted to flow – into the river and we can compare that with historic data to see if it’s more than normal,” he adds.
The CEMS team used satellite data and models to map, predict and monitor the Pakistan floods – covering thousands of square kilometres – in real time.
The ERCC then used the information to coordinate assistance and help people from organisations such as the United Nations, non-governmental organisations, and local authorities.
In crises such as the Pakistan floods, this kind of information is extremely valuable for ground teams since the affected area is huge and rapidly evolving. The Danish Emergency Management Agency (DEMA) used these maps to see where to place water purification plants.
Restoring drinking water using real-time maps
In his work as Civil Defence Major at DEMA, Erik Breum-Christensen has responded to crises in Bangladesh, Slovakia, Romania, and other countries. When he arrived in Pakistan, his team worked to provide clean drinking water to local communities.
People in need were scattered over a large area, and the landscape had been drastically altered by rising water, so finding a safe and accessible site for the water purification plants was vital.
Aided by the near-real-time maps generated by CEMS, Breum-Christensen and other emergency workers were able to survey the local area and understand the best places to set up their equipment.
At first, the mission was comprised solely of Danish emergency workers, but when it was extended from 1 month to 2, they were joined by technicians and a medic from Sweden, Norway and Iceland. This gave the teams the space to think longer-term.
“Once there was a steady supply of clean water for people, we could switch our focus to repairing wells and water purification plants.”
In a country that struggles with access to clean water, this helped establish a healthier, more secure future for the community.
were affected by the Pakistan floods
in EU emergency humanitarian aid
and 1 participating state offered aid through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism
Preparing for the future
Climate change has led to an increase in the number and severity of floods worldwide.
When extreme weather hits, volunteers and national authorities must act rapidly to save lives and protect property. To ensure they are ready to respond, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism supports and complements the prevention and preparedness efforts of its Member States and participating countries.
These include risk assessments across the EU, encouraging research to promote disaster resilience, reinforcing early warning tools, and running large-scale exercises for specific disasters each year.
In 2022, a full-scale field exercise simulating parallel flooding in Tisza and Danube rivers took place across Hungary, Slovakia, and Romania. These types of simulations help identify risks and prepare participants to respond.
The EU Civil Protection Mechanism also co-finances multi-country partnerships developing tools and methods and sharing know-how in Europe and its neighbourhood to prevent and be better prepared for disasters.
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